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This post was originally published in April 2011. It has been updated and republished to include this amazing resource.
Broth is magical.
It's the place in the universe from which magicians get the power to perform their tricks illusions.
It's the point when the Millenium Falcon jumps to hyperspace (c'mon, don't be too good for Star Wars).
It's where the individual Powers of each Planeteer combine to become…Captain Paleo Planet.
I am fascinated by the wisdom of our ancestors. Whether I'm talking my grandparents, their grandparents, or the healthy cultures across the world (like those studied in this book), our ancestors knew how to get every last morsel of nutrition out of their food.
For hundreds of years, traditions around food have been passed down from generation to generation, and for good reason: the secrets to extracting maximum nutrition from food were also the secrets to staying healthy, fertile and nourished while wasting less, throwing nothing away, and spending very little. It seems we forgot these traditions over the last few decades (I certainly wasn't raised on broth, offal or nose-to-tail eating) but they seem to be making a comeback.
Why? Because just changing your diet isn't always enough to truly stack the deck with nutrition. Going “Paleo” or eliminating processed food, for some people, means a diet of chicken breast, coconut oil and spinach. Better than cheerios with soy milk, but not particularly nutrient-dense. It's the organ meats, the marrow, the healthy fats and the bone broth that truly carry impactful nutrition.
Don't worry, there are ways to actually make these taste amazing. Especially broth. It's like comfort in a cup. So nourishing and delicious.
Broth is made from the bones – marrow bones and meaty bones – of animals like cows, pigs and chickens, and aromatic vegetables that add more flavor. Most great restaurants use broth and stock, which is similar – see here for the difference.
Broths are filled with minerals (derived straight from the bones used), nutrients and NATURAL gut-healing, skin-strengthening, cellulite-busting gelatin. Gelatin, which is composed of amino acids (or proteins) that are deficient in the modern diet, can be truly miraculous for those trying to get healthier, health their gut, or improve their skin.
Remember as a kid hearing that they make Jello from horse hooves? Well, it's kind of pretty much really true. Gelatin IS an animal product, derived from the rich stores within different animal “parts,” especially the feet.
At one point, the whole my-food-had-feet thing was a truth I wanted to ignore. But now, it's about being a thoughtful omnivore. My food comes from somewhere, it had feet and a heart and a brain, and all of those parts are edible.
(Possibly graphic material: this picture shows the pig's feet I used for broth, and how gelatinous the final product was.)
If you're wanting to make broth, it's ideal to find a local, pasture-based source of pig, calf or chicken bones (you can even make fish stock); or just use the bones straight from the meat you eat. Feet are richest in collagen and gelatin, though, and will make the most gelatin-rich broth, but your broth will be nutritious no matter what.
I keep things simple (see below), but to be honest, my way could definitely be improved upon. I'm more of a hack-it-together type, so my broths are more utilitarian than culinary. I do it for the nutrition, not the wannabe Top Chef contestant in me.
Although, I must say, the new (and affordable!) book Butter Your Broth, written by my friend Kiersten, has my mouth watering for some yummy yet simple broth variations. Check it out here!
For the most basic broth, the process is simple:
- Take your bones and rinse them. (If you're using feet, just make sure they're nice and clean; yes, you leave the skin on.)
- Optional step for meaty bones, like the ones in the photo at the top of this post: roast them until browned.
- Covered the bones with cool filtered water and add a dash of vinegar. This is when I add my carrots, onion and celery.
- Bring the water to a boil, and skim the top of any floating layer as needed. (You can also use a slow cooker overnight).
- You can simmer from 3 hours up to 72 hours before cooling, straining and bottling.
- ALLOW YOUR BROTH TO COOL to room temperature BEFORE putting it in the refrigerator. Then, let it cool in the fridge overnight so any gelatin released will set and fat will rise to the top for you to skim off (save it if you want to; it just makes the broth a little oily). THEN freeze if desired.
- Warning! If you plan to freeze your broth (it's good a week or so in the fridge) don't fill your glass jars all the way. They'll break when the liquid freezes.
- You can keep simmering bones until they totally dissolve. No clue how long that would take. Weeks, probably. Definitely longer than it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop.
Here's the best part: you can replace your morning coffee with a cup of hot broth like my friend Kiersten does and just WATCH your sleep, skin, digestion and mood improve.
Broth making has become a bit of a ritual around here, and I absolutely love it. Any bones, any little pieces of meat or cartilage still left behind after eating the “politically correct” parts, are put to use in a nourishing way. That's part of what I love about this way of life!
I will say that traditional foods do take some getting-used-to. Even broth can be so rich as to be – well – confusing to the palate. But let's be honest: that's conditioned, like so many other food likes and aversions. I dunno about you, but I don't plan on doing “baby's first birthday cake.” Why not “baby's first birthday liverwurst?” Why not?
Hmph. Anyway – enjoy your broth (butter it if you can!) and thanks for reading! Let me know your broth tips & tricks in the comments.
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