Bone broth is all the rage these days. But most recipes are missing some key details. Details that grandmothers and chefs have always known. In this article, we’ll be sharing those tried and true tips with you.
Pick Your Bones (And Meat)
It seems like with the recent popularity of bone broth, people are neglecting to include some meat. It doesn’t have to be all bare bones. Recipes often call for one type of bone. Typically chicken or beef. But there is no rule against mixing different types together. In fact, we think that is what tastes the best. Pure beef bone broth can have an overly strong flavor profile.
If you are just starting out, take the guesswork out and include a mix of chicken feet, old stewing hens (sometimes referred to as “Soup Chickens”), turkey drumsticks, and some beef marrow bones. If the thought of using chicken feet grosses you out, you can substitute turkey necks which also contain a lot of gelatin. But feet is where it’s at if you want to end up with a really gelatinous broth. How do you know it’s gelatinous? When you are done and refrigerate the broth over night, it should look like jello the next morning (completely solid). Sometimes it’s in between solid and liquid and that’s okay too. The ratio of bones and meat to water, along with the gelatin content of the bones you are starting with will determine just how much it sets when in the fridge.
Why Does Gelatin Matter?
Traditionally, broths have been used to nurture colds and sore throats. We know that broth contains a variety of minerals like calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, sulphur, and trace minerals. If the broth is made using cartilage and tendons, it can also be a rich source of chondroitin and glucosamine, which are often sold as supplements to treat arthritis and joint pain. But back to the gelatin. According to the Weston A. Price Foundation, the use of gelatin as a therapeutic agent goes back to the ancient Chinese, and was popularized as the first functional food in 17th century France. The French were trying to find ways to feed their armies and vast numbers of homeless in Paris and other cities. Although gelatin is not a complete protein (only containing the amino acids arginine and glycine in large amounts), it acted as a protein sparer (helping the poor stretch a few morsels of meat into a complete meal). During the siege of Paris, when vegetables and meat were scarce, a doctor named Guerard put his patients on gelatin with some added fat and they survived in good health. With intermittent fasting being so popular these days, this may help explain why consuming broth can be a vital part of fasting for longer periods.
The French were the pioneers in gelatin research, which continued up to the 1950s, and was found useful in the treatment of a long list of ailments (peptic ulcers, tuberculosis, diabetes, muscle diseases, infectious diseases, jaundice, and cancer). Babies had fewer digestive problems when gelatin was added to their milk (we now see bone broths being recommended to people with auto immune diseases which makes full sense given the history). The American researcher Francis Pottenger pointed out that gelatin facilitates digestion by attracting digestive juices to food in the gut.
Based on a single batch (yields one small sized pot when finished)
- Chicken feet, 1-1/2 lbs
- Stewing hen, 1/2
- Turkey Drumstick, 1
- Beef bones, 2-5 pieces
- Vegetables of choice (onion, carrots, celery, tomato)
- Aromatics of choice (garlic, peppercorns, cardamom pods, bay leaf, fresh or dried tumeric, ginger, thyme, lemongrass)
- Apple cider vinegar, 2 tbsp (used to help extract minerals, but can be omitted for those who do not like the flavor)
With the bones and meat in the pot, fill 2/3 to 3/4 of the pot with cold water. Bring to a boil. Either with low heat and the lid on, or with higher heat and the lid off. Why? When it comes to a boil it will foam up and can make quite the mess.
Tip #1: Skim Off The Scum
This is one tip that most recipes fail to explain. When the pot comes to a boil, the bones will release their impurities in the form of a scum. You do not want to keep this scum in the pot. This is why it’s important to not add your vegetables and aromatics to the pot before bringing to a boil. Skim off the scum using a ladle and discard into your kitchen sink. You don’t have to go crazy and try and remove every last bit though.
Once the scum has been removed, add the salt, vegetables, and aromatics. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for anywhere from 3 to 8 hours. Some recipes call for a 24 hour (or longer) cooking time. We think that this is excessive and unnecessary. The theory behind the super long cooking time is that it is required to extract all of the minerals out of the bones. While this theory may have some merit when using only beef bones, with the mix that we are using in this guide, it simply is not required. Chicken feet give up their gelatin in 3+ hours. There can also be another drawback to super long cooking times: histamine. But we will be covering that in another article.
If you are using any delicate herbs like parsley or coriander leaves, add them at the end of cooking and cook for about 15 minutes. Strain the broth into a smaller pot than you used to cook the broth. Allow it to cool before placing in the refrigerator. If the pot is still hot, you can use a hot plate to protect your refrigerator. The next day you can begin drinking the broth or using it in recipes. If a thick layer of fat has hardened on top of the broth, you can skim it off using a large serving spoon. If the fat layer is thin, this is not necessary.
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