The ultimate bone broth guide
As a clinical naturopath, a hearty cup of bone broth is one of my top recommendations for clients. Going back to the philosophy of ‘food as medicine’, bone broth is one of the most simple, affordable and nutrient dense foods you can make. It’s full of minerals such as calcium, magnesium, gelatine and collagen that can boost immunity, promote strong bones and support gut health. With winter upon us there has never been a better time than now to warm up with a cup of this nourishing elixir.
So what exactly is bone broth?
Most of us use the terms ‘broth’ and ‘stock’ interchangeably. However, there is a difference between the two. Stock, on the one hand, is made predominantly from bones (often roasted) and is cooked for about 4-6 hours to extract the flavour from the tendons, ligaments and muscle meat that’s left on the bone. It’s usually rich and thick in texture and has a gelatinous quality when chilled. Stock isn’t normally consumed on its own, rather it’s used as a base for other dishes such as soups, sauces or gravy.
Broth on the other hand has a clear, light consistency and is based on bone stock with the addition of herbs, spices, citrus juice (or apple cider vinegar), vegetables and meat, poultry or fish. Broth is cooked for a longer period of time, often overnight, with the goal of extracting the maximum amount of nutrients and minerals.
The terms ‘vegetable stock’ or ‘vegetable broth’ are essentially the same thing because neither incorporate meat or bones in the cooking process. While still nourishing, the vegetarian version is not the traditional method for making broth and it doesn’t have the same rich, nutritional profile.
Why is bone broth making a comeback?
There has been a resurgence of late, of ‘nose-to-tail-eating’, a philosophy that encourages people to use every part of an animal so that nothing is wasted. There is also a growing understanding that the organs and bones are often the most nutritionally dense components. It is important, however, to consider the way that the animal is reared. Grass fed meat offers a much higher nutritional value than meat raised on grains or pumped full of hormones.
Another reason that bone broth is making a comeback is the prevalence of disease in our modern society. Numerous studies have shown that a poor diet is responsible for increases in heart disease and obesity. We have turned our backs on thousands of years of of human food evolution.
Health benefits of bone broth
- Strong and healthy bones: According to the Weston A Price Foundation, “stock contains minerals in a form the body can absorb easily – not just calcium but also magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulphur and trace minerals.” All these nutrients are vital for healthy bones and muscles.
- Better immunity: Chicken soup has long been touted as a cure for the common cold. While it might not necessarily cure you, the minerals it contains can play a role in keeping your immune system strong.
- Healthy digestion: Broth is a great source of gelatine, a functional food that promotes healthy digestion by restoring the gut lining and enhancing gastric acid secretions. I often suggest that clients drink broth as a remedy for an irritable stomach.
- Reduce joint pain/anti-inflammatory: Bone broth rich in glucosamine and chondroitin nutrients found in the cartilage of bones. These nutrients may be useful in treating joint pain and inflammation.
Basic bone broth recipe
Bone broth is very simple and low cost to prepare. It’s a versatile dish, and once you get the basics right, you can experiment with different vegetables and meats. Here are my guidelines for a classic bone broth.
Vegetables: For every 1kg of bones add 100g each of sliced carrots, onions and leeks, 1 celery stick and 1 bunch of parsley stalks
Apple cider vinegar (helps extract minerals) 2-3 tablespoons for every 1 litre
Natural salt, 1/5 tsp for every 1 litre of water
Water quantity for bones:
- 4 litres for every 1kg of bones – beef marrow bones, lamb bones, chicken carcasses (always opt for organic ingredients, where possible)
- 3.5 litres per every 1.5kg of whole chicken
- 3 litres for every 500g of prawn shells, fish heads and tails
- Add all ingredients into a large pot with a lid. Simmer over 4-6 hours (hard/large bones, such as beef bones, may simmer for up to 10 hours).
- Alternatively, you can add all if the ingredients to a slow food cooker and leave on overnight or throughout the day on low heat.
- Skim the residue off the surface every now and then. Any meat and cartilage will fall off bone.
- Strain and serve as a clear broth or freeze in two cup containers and use as needed.
- A good quality bone broth will have plenty of gelatine. Gelatine sets like jelly when the bone stock is cold. Beef and marrow bones impart the best gelatine.
Spice up your broth
My classic bone broth recipe is a very versatile and you can vamp it up with herbs, spices and other ingredients for added health benefits. Fresh garden herbs such as thyme, oregano and dill, and spices such as cinnamon and ginger are fantastic additions.
Ginger, lemon & seaweed broth
Add half a cup of bone stock to a mug with 1 tablespoon of finely chopped dried seaweed, ½ teaspoon of grated fresh ginger root, ½ teaspoon of lemon zest and juice of half a lemon. Season with natural salt and freshly cracked pepper. Top with boiling water and stir.
- More delicious broth variations are available in my book, I Am Food.
Broth for the week
I recommend creating a large batch of broth on the weekend. It can be frozen into glass containers and used in place of stock cubes later on. Add frozen bone stock to a pot with chopped vegetables meat and voila. Dinner is served! If you are short of time you can also purchase a high quality bone broth from quality wholefood stores.
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