I've recommended making bone broth to a number of my patients in the past. It's a fantastic source of nutrition for a lot of reasons that I'll get into in a moment. The problem is, I've had a lot of patients come back and tell me that either it was too much work to make, or it didn't taste very good and so they stopped doing it. I'm writing this post to try to make the process easier and make the final product more flavorful.
When made properly it's rich and flavorful. In classical french cuisine, bone broth is the first step in making the mother sauce known as Demi Glace. If you've eaten at a four star restaurant and ordered lamb, steak, or wild game chances are the sauce used on your plate started with a version of the recipe below. It's not only very good for you, it's also very, very tasty.
First, why is it so nutritious? Bone broth is rich in the amino acids proline and glycine. These amino acids are involved in various processes in the body, most importantly including the formation of collagen. These amino acids are linked together in long chains that ultimately become the collagen in your joints, the gut lining, your skin, and your hair as well as any wound healing that is occurring in the body. Proline and glycine are known as non-essential amino acids, meaning the body can make them out of other amino acids. In a normal state (not healing from an injury, without any chronic joint issues, and obtaining sufficient nutrition) the body does pretty good at making these two amino acids to meet demand. But in the case of people with injuries, gut issues, poor nutrition or very active lifestyles it is unlikely that enough of these amino acids are being made to fully meet demand. For these people it is important to get them from the diet. Bone broth is also rich in micronutrients such as calcium, magnesium, silica, chondroitin, and hyaluronic acid.
It's important to start with high quality ingredients: bone from traditionally raised animals. That means if it's cow bones you are using then they are grass fed, and organic. If you are using chicken bones the chickens should be free to graze, eating insects and foraging. There are many farms where you can get these "pastured" chickens. "Free range" or "cage free" does not necessarily mean that these chickens are out foraging. The important thing is that they are free to eat their traditional diet. If they do then they are packing their tissues with the nutrients that are best for them and for you, and not just with the limited nutrients that come in their feed. If you are using other bones such as fish, lamb, or game, again look for animals that are living as close to their natural life and diet as possible for the sake of your health (and their happiness). Look for the bones with lots of tendon and ligament attached. That will increase the amount of proline and glycine in the final product. Often these bones are labeled as dog bones. Don't be shy, those are usually the best ones. Look at your local store, or ask the butcher if you don't see them available.
Use organic vegetables as well, and the fresher the better. Clean, pure water from a well is ideal. If you are on city water then make sure you are filtering the water.
Here's the recipe:
-Large stock pot or crockpot
-Baking sheet pan
-A pile of bones:
4 or 5 large cow bones, a whole chicken carcass, or several fish heads and spines. There isn't an exact amount here. I keep a ziplock bag in the freezer and add bones to it over the course of a few weeks. Once I've accumulated enough I'll make another batch of bone broth. The amount of bones you use will depend on the size of your stock pot or crockpot.
Named for an 18th century French general, a mirepoix is a mixture of vegetables for making a flavorful stock. Traditionally this means onion, celery, and carrots. I use roughly equal parts each by volume. For one batch I typically use one to two large onions, one whole head of celery and 5 or 6 large carrots. In terms of volume I usually have about as large a pile of veggies as I have of bones.
-Tomato Paste (a small can)
-1 T grass fed butter, tallow, olive oil, ghee, or bacon fat
-Lots of cold pure water
-Various fresh herbs such as parsley, thyme, oregano, lavender, rosemary, whatever is handy, and a single bay leaf
-5 garlic cloves, each cut in quarters
-A dozen or so peppercorns
-Dash Sea salt
-1/3 cup red wine
-1/8 cup vinegar (apple cider, or red wine vinegar)
1. Throw the bones on a baking sheet, slather them with a little bit of tomato paste and put them under the broiler. Broil till slightly browned, turning over periodically, usually about 20 minutes.
2. While the bones are broiling chop the veggies roughly into medium a dice.
3. In your large stock pot add the olive oil butter, tallow, bacon fat, ghee or other source of fat. Saute the veggies over low to medium heat for about 30 minutes, until they are all softened and taking on just a very slight caramelization. Be careful not to over brown them as they can impart a burnt flavor into the broth.
4. Add the red wine to the pot and deglaze the bottom. Allow the red wine to reduce down for a few minutes.
5. Add the bones to the pot and fill with as much water as it can safely hold.
6. Add all the remaining ingredients. There is no need to chop the herbs. The larger cut of the garlic keeps that flavor from becoming sharp and makes the garlic flavor more mellow. The vinegar is added to create a slight acidity that pulls some of the other nutrients (like magnesium and calcium) out of the bones.
7. Simmer over a low heat for 8-24 hours until it has reduced down to about 1/3 its original volume.
8. Taste it periodically. Adjust the flavor as needed with some salt, pepper, or more herbs. When its flavor is sufficiently concentrated for your taste it's done. You know that you did a really good job if when you put a small cup of it in the fridge it comes out set, like jello.
9. Strain out the veggies and bones. Store the broth in (glass) jars in the fridge and freezer. As I strain the broth out I reserve the pieces of meat and tendon that have been softened for so many hours of cooking. They go great into soups. Sometimes I'll just eat them straight, or add them to a bolognese.
To warm the broth you can pour a 1/4 cup into a coffee cup and set the cup into an inch or so of water in a pot on the stove and warm it on low. I prefer not to microwave my broth. Ideally this broth should be consumed twice daily for those healing, resting gut integrity or in the case of post partum women. In the rest of us, just trying to stay as healthy as possible, I'd recommend it daily or every other day.
For more information take a look at Mark's Daily Apple, he wrote a great segment on Bone broth a while back.
I'm Kieran, clinician and founder at The Parani Clinic. I'm an acupuncturist, herbalist, and functional medicine practitioner for the past 10 years. I have a deep curiosity in health, biology, culture, medicine, history, and a healthy obsession with the pursuit of the perfect state of health.