Bone broth is a component of all traditional foods. Bone broth is a home-made broth where the bones with small meat scraps are boiled create a flavor base for soups, cooking grains, or as a nourishing drink. This is NOT the same as the reconstituted bullion cubes you can buy in the store. These are not necessarily made with bones, and often contain unhealthful ingredients such as MSG.
Why bones? Because bones are filled with minerals that are needed in the body, most especially calcium. When soaked in an acidic medium and boiled, bones release calcium and other minerals into the water. Drinking it in this form is easy to absorb. Bones also have cartilage, which dissolves into gelatin when cooked. Gelatin is very helpful in the digestive process in that it draws digestive juices into cooked foods, breaking them down more quickly and effectively.
The leftovers from tonight’s chicken dinner – or whatever meat you happen to be eating this week – can go in the pot for boiling. Whenever I cowpool – cowpooling is buying part of a free-range cow – I make sure I get the bones. The butcher is happy to accommodate. Usually I freeze them in bags for later boiling, I try to include at least one joint bone in each bag, because the cartilage will provide a substantial amount of gelatin. Or you can just save the bones from whatever cut of meat you are having for dinner, freezing them until you have enough to make a big batch of broth. When saving chicken carcasses, be sure to keep the neck, gizzard and heart, but don’t use the liver for broth. If you are lucky enough to be raising your own chickens, by all means, include the feet! Chicken feet have LOTS of gelatin.
If you’re making a large batch, you need a deep stock-pot and enough bones to fill it half-way, and lots of non-fluoridated water. This allows the liquid to circulate freely around the bones. If your bones are raw, you can roast them in the oven first, which adds flavor, but this step is optional. However I often make my weekly batch in a crock pot. The bones from one chicken fit nicely into a crock-pot and makes almost a half gallon of broth.
Start by placing the bones in the pot or crock, and filling with enough clean water to cover your bones. I sometimes add seaweed for additional minerals. Your pot should be about half full of bones. Add 2-4 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to help leach out the minerals, and let this set for 15 minutes or so. Then add enough water to finish filling the pot and bring to a boil. At this point, if you are using raw bones, foam will rise to the top of the pot and this must be skimmed off or the broth will taste less than ideal, and be quite murkey. This does not happen with cooked bones. Your stock will need to simmer for 12 to 24 hours to dissolve all of the cartilage off the bones. The bigger the bones, the more time. You will need to periodically add water so that the bones stay covered and the liquid circulating. Once the cartilage is all dissolved, remove the bones and any meat and leave nothing but the broth. Pour off a cupful, add some salt for flavor, and voila! Your daily broth.