Broth

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!
butter your broth
 
For the most basic broth, the process is simple:

  1. 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.)
  2. Optional step for meaty bones, like the ones in the photo at the top of this post: roast them until browned.
  3. Covered the bones with cool filtered water and add a dash of vinegar. This is when I add my carrots, onion and celery.
  4. Bring the water to a boil, and skim the top of any floating layer as needed. (You can also use a slow cooker overnight).
  5. You can simmer from 3 hours up to 72 hours before cooling, straining and bottling.
  6. 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.
    1. 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.
    2. 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?

Weird? Hello?

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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38 Responses

  1. I too have considered switching coffee for broth in the morning. I have just been too lazy to make it and the commercially available broths tend to be super high in sodium.

    1. And I’d imagine most aren’t prepared with the same quality of ingredients. “Chicken flavor?!” Let me know what you think when you make the switch…I still enjoy coffee but will sometimes get the self-experimentation urge and go wild with it. I’m a loose cannon like that.

  2. Whereas ‘m not sure I could drink it in a mug every day, bone broth really is magic. I use it for everything in place of water: sauteeing veggies, making mashed parsnips, cooking rice (I KNOW, rice if verboten but I like it sometimes OOKKAY?! Sheesh, get off my back!! 😉 )
    Thanks for the link love as usual.

  3. I love this post. Love it.
    First of all, I am a huge fan of the roast-a-chicken-use-carcass-for-broth stuff. I do it once a week. But since my chicken doesn’t come with feet, I haven’t ever tried it. Same goes for the beef bones. My weekly roasting/broth making/soup making ritual just got a little more interesting. Many many thanks!

  4. i totally agree! broth is so so good for you, and although liver is out of favour in the uk, it used to be a staple of our diet… and it’s really cheap too 🙂
    i’m thinking i need to experiment with the slightly more unusual cuts, as well as make some of that broth you have that looks so good!

  5. Check out Sally Fallon’s “Nourishing Traditions” (great book). Her recipes for stock includes a cool extra step for added goodness. Add 2 tablespoons of vinegar with the cold water at the start and let the mix sit for 30 to 60 minutes before beginning to cook. The acid in the vinegar will help draw minerals out of the bone and into the stock (particularly calcium, potassium and magnesium).
    Also, I have found that some butchers are willing slice beef leg bones and such. That way you can get the flavor and goodness of the marrow into your stock.

    1. Thanks Morgan! I actually do own that book and use it often 🙂 I probably should have put a little paragraph in about that…
      I have a very large collection of bones of all kinds that my dog is just dying to dig into. I’ve heard marrow is a delicious topping on steak!

  6. We must be having a vulcan mind meld (please don’t be too good for a Star Trek reference 🙂 lately as I’ve been all about the homemade broth. Three weeks in and yes,broth making has become a weekly ritual. Chicken feet and fish carcasses have yielded the best results to date.
    Thanks for the post, I’m sending it along to my mom (whose currently undergoing chem) as I’m trying to get her on the broth bandwagon.

    1. Never too good for a Star Trek reference! Love it. I think broth could be really amazing for your mom. The minerals are incredibly easy for the body to assimilate. Sending her lots of good vibes!

  7. I should not read your blog hungary. My Dad calls broth “homemade penicillin” and I think it works just about as well (or better). Chicken broth with a little grated ginger is a tasty beverage & good for nausea.

    1. Woops, sorry about that! No rush on any of the weird stuff, TR. I promise that doesn’t appear too often 🙂 I actually think easing into it with eggs, maybe some raw, grass-fed dairy (for the Vitamin K2) and fish is good to go if the trotters make you queasy!

      1. Hi Lizz!! I am definitely late to this post, but in reading your Skintervention guide, i wanted to get your exact recipe for the broth. When i tried making it before, i had to keep adding water because it would evaporate so quickly… How do you avoid that?? Also, how much water do you use (ballpark) per pound of bones??
        Thank you!!!!!!

        1. Hey Soledad! A large pot of water, bones, vinegar and veggies simmered for as long as I feel like it! I wish I could be specific, but it literally changes every single time :/ You just have to experiment – I’ve found every batch comes out differently! I’ve done the add-water thing many times. It’s not a bad thing – you’re just further concentrating the nutrition as you continue to cook!
          I will work on this question and a more exact recipe!

  8. Ahh what a relief to hear another paleo person recognize the magic of the intersection of the paleo diet and the Weston Price diet! OMG I love you! I have been paleo for 6 years and about 4 years ago I discovered Weston Price. I have been making bone broths ever since and, while I don’t eat grains or dairy, I now eat organs and ultra high fat. Discovering that was a miracle for my health. I’m so glad you mention it!

    1. I’m totally with you, Peggy! The infrastructure/activism of WAP is also amazing. I’m currently in a WAP-based program for Nutritional Therapy and they often cite Paleo resources, which is awesome! They totally “get it.” I like the idea of looking at “traditional” cultures closer to our “modern” times to realize that it wasn’t just cavemen who enjoyed perfect health! Any advice on incorporating more organs? I’m getting a whole slew of them from the GF cow we just ordered…

  9. A Russian friend of mine used to bake tongue but I didn’t like it. I wasn’t raised eating that stuff unfortunately so it really doesn’t go over well with my taste buds. What I mainly do is eat a few bites of raw liver every day or so while plugging my nose! haha. I also add organs (like the whole inside of a chicken) to my soups. In Colombia Sancocho (traditional soup) is made with organs and it’s amazing stuff. They usually don’t eat them, it just adds to the nutrition and flavor of the soup. Other than that, the deli at whole foods sometimes has a mean liver pate! Good luck with your organs. Let me know if you come up with any creative ideas.

  10. A Russian friend of mine used to bake tongue but I didn’t like it. I wasn’t raised eating that stuff unfortunately so it really doesn’t go over well with my taste buds. What I mainly do is eat a few bites of raw liver every day or so while plugging my nose! haha. I also add organs (like the whole inside of a chicken) to my soups. In Colombia Sancocho (traditional soup) is made with organs and it’s amazing stuff. They usually don’t eat them, it just adds to the nutrition and flavor of the soup. Other than that, the deli at whole foods sometimes has a mean liver pate! Good luck with your organs. Let me know if you come up with any creative ideas.

  11. Hi Cave Girl! I know I’m really late to this post, but I tried making broth this week and was hoping to ask a quick question, if you don’t mind. Everything went really well throughout the process–I used 3 pounds of beef bones (mostly marrow bones), veggie scraps, and some fresh onions, and I simmered for about 24 hours. Now that’s it’s been in the fridge for a few days, though, I’ve noticed that it hasn’t gelled at all. Does this mean I need to add a foot or two to get more gelatin, or was it possibly just because of the short cooking time? Also, is there a hierarchy as far as which kinds of bones are best to use, or can you really just throw any kind in there?
    Sorry to pester you with questions 🙂 Just discovered your blog recently, but I’ve already learned so much from you. Thanks!

    1. No problem! (Great name, btw 🙂 You simply simmered too long to preserve the gelatin! You still have a great broth, the gelatin just broke down. This isn’t a bad thing; it’s just a factor of cooking time. The longer simmer extracts lots and lots of nutrients, while the short simmer (3 hours-ish) keeps the gelatin intact. I have been adding feet because they ARE a great source of gelatin, but you can still break that down with the long simmer.
      (It MAY still gel eventually – I did have a batch that took about 2 days to gel – but that may not be the case.)
      Here’s what I do. I make a huuuuuge pot. About 3 hours in, I’ll take about half out and strain/cool (that’s my gelatin-rich broth). I keep the rest going for a good overnight simmer to extract as many minerals as possible. You can combine the two! Just make sure you use vinegar to better extract the minerals.
      And you should ALWAYS pester me! I love it!

    2. I have also read that a high temp can break down the gelatin, which isn’t ideal. So a quick boil, skim off the gunk and then bring the temp down to a simmer, and you can cook it longer to preserve the gelatin. Also, I usually reuse the bones a few times, you should be able to make 2 batches from chicken bones for example, so I make one batch then take the left over bones and break them in two to help release more of the internal bone marrow-a practice done in India, which makes the riches curries! And to make the broth tasty, I add some nori or other seaweed for extra iodine, and some fish sauce and often a piece of celery.

  12. Oh, perfect–thank you! Exactly the kind of info I was looking for 🙂 I’ll try this new method tonight…

  13. I love bone broth!! I thought I was the only weirdo who drank it in the morning. lol!! Paleo weirdos unite!
    Anyway, I’ve been making my bone broths using the WAPF recipe (in Broth is Beautiful) except I used lemon juice instead of vinegar. My new health practitioner wants me to try the GAPS diet and now I’m thoroughly confused. The GAPS broth recipe is vague, doesn’t say how many pounds of bones per batch. Also, it only cooks for a few hours. The GAPS intro stage 1 is just soups and broths so I will be making a TON of broth. It would be a lot easier to only simmer for a few hours. I could make a few batches in one day!
    Here’s my question: Is there any downside to not simmering the broth for 24 hrs (ie. WAPF broth) compared to simmering for a few hours (ie GAPS broth)?
    Last broth q- what do you freeze your broth in? I have some Mason jars but they’re not the wide mouthed ones and they say they’re not freezer safe!
    Thanks!

    1. I believe the GAPS broth preparation is meant to maintain the gelatin in the broth! I believe that a short simmer may extract fewer nutrients, but it also breaks down the gelatin. I tested this by doing one 2-hour batch and one 24-hour batch, and I found that the 3-hour batch was gelatinous upon cooling and the 24-hour batch remained liquid! I think it’s the gelatin that has the gut-healing properties.
      I pour the broth into ice cube trays and freeze, then empty the cubes into baggies and store in the freezer! I learned the hard way that mason jars aren’t freezer-safe 😉 ugh.

  14. With the WAPF broth, I would usually use 4 pounds of bones and about 4 qts of water. With the GAPS broth since you don’t cook it as long, do you still use the same amount of bones? Or can you just use 1-2 pounds. What is the ratio of bones to water? Sorry for all these questions! It’s hard to find answers about the GAPS broth!!

  15. I have just recently begun collecting the bones back out of my cooked meals to boil into broths–I’ve been freezing them until I have enough). I was just going to throw them in the crockpot with carrots and celery and onions, and let it cook for about 3 days. I wouldn’t know what to do with the gelatin-I’m pretty new to this idea of using everything but I like the idea alot (maybe I’m just cheap)-it’s the broth I want. I used to know this older jamaican gentleman who would bring in knuckle-bone soup every day to work. He said that in jamaica they’d use the whole animal (because they’re a pretty poor country, after all) so they’d bury the pot with hot rocks and let it cook down there for days. I’m sure a modern-day crockpot is the same idea. The pieces of bone he’d have left were never larger than a quarter after a long cook. It just seems so EFFICIENT to me. It makes total sence. And who wouldn’t like a nice cup of mid-afternoon broth for a pick-me-up? I’m going to have to get to know my local butchers to get more bones!

  16. Hello! I was surprised by your assertion that cooking the broth for many hours is inadvisable, because acording to your research this may break down the gelatin too much for it to be useful. Just about every recipe I read said that basically the more hours the merrier. Having followed your very informative link about the mineral content in broths I think you may have gotten that idea from what the site says about the way that factory/canned broths are made, and I quote from the site: “the HIGH, long heating involved in canning destroys the flavor compounds.” Homemade broths are invariably cooked on very, very low heat.

    1. Hi Mariana – thanks for reading! Keep in mind that this post is 1.5 years old and in need of an update 🙂 I don’t think I said “inadvisable”…just commented that a longer cook time may break down the gelatin. I wasn’t wrong on that point – if your broth doesn’t gel, the gelatin content HAS been broken down, which can happen (has happened) to many folks. That was from my own experience, as well as some googling (not referencing the quote you mentioned). However, I WAS wrong about that being a bad thing…because the component parts of gelatin are still useful, and of course, so are the minerals! Thanks to your comment, I made a teensy edit to make that clear 🙂 Thanks for keeping me on my toes.
      Also, I did comment in the post on the excellent mineral density of long-simmered broths. I’ve been working on 2 pots of broths simmering over VERY low heat for several days now…you’re right…one must use very low heat! I think, when this post was written, I may have been too aggressive with the heat application. I can now simmer broth for days and still preserve the gelatin content. Live, learn!

  17. so, my butcher will give me grass fed(grain-finished..the best round here though) beef bones for $1/lb…this seems like a steal…is this a steal?
    Always have some sort of fowl carcass in the freezer awaiting broth. I’ve taken to drinking a mug a morning for breakfast. But I’ve never done beef bones.

  18. Has anyone tried it with rabbit bones I’ve been stocking up on all the bones that I butcher from my rabbits

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