You have, no doubt, heard of the legendary healing powers of chicken soup. They’re for real. Why is Jewish Penicillin* good for nearly anything that ails you? Bone broth.
Somewhere over the last thirty years, Americans developed a preference for boneless meat. It’s a damned shame. As a cook, I can tell you that meat tastes best when cooked on the bone. The great loss, however, is the bones themselves. Naked, picked clean of meat, bones are still tremendously nutritious and remarkably flavorful. How? You simmer them for bone broth.
Don’t sigh and click away. You can do this. It’s simple, requires very little input of time or energy, and will yield unbelievably flavorful broth — and thus soups and sauces — from something you would otherwise have thrown in the trash. Here’s how:
Save your bones. I put mine in a plastic grocery sack in the freezer; I keep one bag for poultry bones and another for steak bones. If they have some sort of strong seasoning on them, you may want to give them a quick rinse before throwing them in the bag, but I rarely find this necessary.
When you have a sack full of bones, it’s time to make broth. Dump your bones in a big darned pot — a stock pot or soup kettle. Cover with water, and add about a teaspoon of salt and a quarter cup of any kind of vinegar. Put this over a low burner on the back of the stove, and bring to a simmer. Adjust the heat to keep it simmering, but not boiling, and let it cook for… a long time. I generally let mine cook till the liquid in the pot has gone down by a good four inches.
Now cover the pot to keep germs out, turn off the burner, and let it cool on the back of the stove. If you’re going to leave it past the point where it’s cool, you’ll want to refrigerate it, but you’ll have to bring it back to room temperature, at least, to strain it. Put a sieve in a HUGE bowl, and pour the broth through it. Discard the bones. Congratulations! You have bone broth. Use it as you would any packaged broth from the store — only with far better results.
Don’t have time to hang around the house for hours while your bones simmer? You can make superb broth in your slow cooker. Same routine — dump in bones, cover with water, add salt and vinegar. Cover, set to low, and let it cook for a minimum of twelve hours, but I’ve been known to let mine go for two days. Cool and strain.
If you’re not going to use your broth right away, you can refrigerate it for a few days — you’ll find it gels in the fridge. That’s the gelatin that cooks out of the bones, and super-healthful stuff it is, too. Because of the vinegar you added, your broth will also be rich in easily-absorbed calcium.
If you’re not using it right away, freeze your broth in snap-top containers. A quart or two of broth in the freezer is like money in the bank — you can turn it into a rich and satisfying soup in nearly no time. Here are a few of my standbys:
- In a big saucepan, over medium heat, saute a tablespoon of curry powder (or more or less, to taste) for just a minute in a tablespoon of coconut oil. Add a quart of broth, a can of coconut milk, and a crushed clove of garlic, and bring to a simmer. Thicken a little with guar, xanthan, or glucomannan, salt and pepper to taste, and serve with toasted almonds on top.
- Dice a medium onion and a big rib of celery, and slice a carrot thin. Throw ’em in that big saucepan and add a quart of broth, a teaspoon or two of poultry seasoning, and a bay leaf. Bring to a simmer and let it cook till the veggies are soft — maybe 20 minutes. Dice a boneless, skinless chicken breast or a couple of thighs, and stir in, along with a packet of tofu shirataki noodles you’ve drained and rinsed — the fettucine width are best here. Let it simmer another five minutes till the chicken cubes are cooked through, and you have chicken noodle soup.
- For a super-simple first course, combine beef broth with canned tomatoes. Warming and filling.
* Or WASPy Penicillin. Or Asian Penicillin. Or Latino Penicillin. Whatever. Bone broth is an Equal Opportunity Healer.