Nanci Miklowski, ND
Make the Best Bone Broth in Cleveland ... And Do it Efficiently!
It’s that time of year again when the temperature starts to drop, the leaves begin to fall, and pumpkin-flavored everything is everywhere. I love autumn for these reasons, but the one thing I get really excited about is soup! Yes, soup can be eaten all year but I particularly crave it in the fall. I love how it is simple and warming, yet satisfying and packed with nutrients. And the key to making a great soup is homemade broth.
Homemade bone broth has many amazing qualities. First, it’s very easy to make (I will get into that more in a minute). Second, it’s economical because it allows you to use what would normally be thrown away, eliminating the purchase of premade broth. For this reason, it is also environmentally-friendly, since there is less non-recyclable waste added to landfills. Lastly, homemade bone broth is healthy and health-promoting!
Simmering bones, cartilage, and meat releases nutrients such as amino acids, hyaluronic acid, and collagen (3). When discussing food, this extracted collagen is referred to as gelatin and it will give your broth a Jell-O consistency in the refrigerator (3). These components can improve the health of the gut, skin, and joints (3).
Additionally, bone broth provides a nice dose of minerals like calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium, and provides them in a way that is easily digestible (3). Consuming broth regularly, either straight or in soups, can promote general wellness. It is also perfect for when you are feeling under the weather since it helps keep you hydrated, while providing nourishment.
Okay, now you know why bone broth is great! So how do you get started??
I’ve been making bone broth for many years and I've learned a lot of lessons along the way. For instance, don't leave finished broth on the stove to cool when you’re not home, but your mischievous dog is. Let’s just say I came home to a very satisfied dog and an incredibly messy kitchen! Thankfully I hadn't used onions in that batch. Beyond putting your broth in a secure location, the following is a list of shortcuts and tips that allow making your own homemade bone broth to be easy, fast, and delicious.
The Prep Stage:
Any kind of bone can be used…chicken, turkey, beef, or pork. Preferably the bones come from grass-fed/pasture-raised animals. Whole Foods, Heinen's, and some butchers usually carry grass-fed beef. Finding pasture-raised chicken, turkey, and pork at local retailers can be a bit more difficult. Finding a local farm like Chandler Hill Farm in Burton, Ohio can be a great source of all kinds of pasture-raised meat and bones.
You can use raw or cooked bones, although I find cooked bones produce better tasting broth.
Make it easy on yourself by saving bones in the freezer until you have accumulated enough to fill a pot or slow cooker/Crock-Pot. We regularly make chicken drumsticks, and as we clear the dishes, we drop the gnawed-on bones with bits of meat right into a Ziplock bag. It’s best to use frozen bones within six months. Vacuum-sealing will help them last longer and prevent frost.
Cooking whole chickens in a slow cooker or the oven is a great way to accumulate bones. After you remove the meat, you can use the bones, cartilage, skin, and any leftover meat to make broth. Post-Thanksgiving turkey carcasses also make excellent broth!
Roughly chopped vegetables like onion, celery, and carrots add more flavor and nutrients, like vitamin C and beta carotene. You can also save the ends, skins, and stalks of vegetables and freeze, just like bones, for later use.
The Cooking Stage:
Simply take the bones and toss them in a slow cooker/Crock-pot or large pot. I personally like using a slow cooker because I can just set it and go on with my day.
Add in some vegetables, either fresh or frozen. When using frozen bones and vegetables, you do not need to defrost them beforehand. Just throw them in as is.
Then add enough filtered water until the contents are just covered. If using a slow cooker, make sure you have enough bones and veg so that the water line is about inch or so from the top. If you have less and the slow cooker is only partially filled, the temperature may get too high.
Now add 1-2 tablespoons of organic apple cider vinegar. Smaller batches need one tablespoon and larger batches need two.
Lastly, gently stir in about 1 teaspoon of Himalayan sea salt. This is not enough salt to fully season the broth but just enough to bring out flavors. I don't add more salt until I'm ready to use the broth. This prevents the future dish from being too salty.
If using a pot, cover and set heat to high to bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to simmer/low. If using a slow cooker, turn on high for two hours and then set to low. Some slow cookers have an “auto” selection that will automatically go from high to low after two hours.
If cooking chicken, turkey, or pork, simmer for 2-18 hours. If using beef, simmer for 4-24 hours. Simmering for longer durations will create a more robust broth.
During the cooking process, you want to maintain a slow simmer. Using too much heat will boil off the collagen/gelatin and denature other nutrients. Here is a short video that shows an ideal simmer.
The Usage/Storage Stage:
Allow broth to cool to room temperature. During the winter time, I will set the vessel outside to speed up cooling. Or if I don’t have time to deal with it, I will leave it outside (in freezing temps) until the next day. Doing this will allow you to remove the solidified fat if you wish, although that is not necessary.
Use a large slotted spoon to remove the majority of the bones and vegetable matter. Before placing the vegetables in the compost and the bones in the trash, I transfer them into a strainer placed over a large bowl to collect any extra broth. Don’t want to throw away any of the goodness!
If you are planning to use the broth right away, pour the broth through a fine-meshed strainer into your cooking vessel.
If you need to store the broth, I find mason jars to be the best storage option. Only the 8-ounce and 16-ounce jars are freezer-friendly, though (another lesson learned the hard way!). To transfer the broth, I put a small fine-mesh strainer over a jar and use a 2-cup Pyrex measuring cup to scoop and pour. You will need to rinse off the strainer every few jars to clear out veggies and small bones. This process can be a bit messy but it’s the easiest method I have found with the supplies we have. You may different gadgets, so use whatever method is easiest for you!
Stored broth will last 3-4 days in the refrigerator, up to six months in a fridge freezer, and up to a year in a deep/chest freezer.
Lastly, if you’re freezing the broth, a great way to easily label the jars is rubber bands, such as the ones that are used bunch vegetables together. Simply write “chicken”, “beef”, “turkey”, etc. on the rubber band with a permanent marker and wrap around the jar.
And that’s it! Now you can make broth to drink straight, create soups, or use for a wide-range of recipes. I know above seems like a lot of writing and therefore a lot of work. But I promise you, once you get the hang of it, you will be able to make broth in your sleep!
Happy Fall and Happy Broth-Making!
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Gimbar M (2017) A sip above the rest…Is bone broth all its boiled up to be? Journal of Renal Nutrition 27(6):e39-e40.