Written by Alison Bell
I’m sure you’ve all been researching bone broth recipes, and it all seems pretty simple right? Bones, onions, celery, apple cider vinegar, garlic, salt, pepper, water, a slow cooker or large pot on the stove and 24 hours. How hard can this be?
I know it took me many failed experiments before reaching the perfect broth every time. I certainly didn’t achieve a golden brown clear elixir, with lovely wobbly jelly like consistency first time, or even first 10 times! I had brown murky muddy water, it was thin and it was so strong to taste it was undrinkable. It didn’t gel so did that mean there were no benefits? No wonder so many people stop making broth and say ewwww to a brothee if this is the end result of your hard work!
But don’t despair, here are some tips to help you with your home cooked broth.
I started my journey (and have continued) using the stove top, both gas and electric. Gas will of course enable a little more temperature control, but does leave a naked flame that can make everyone nervous. Many feel more comfortable using a slow cooker. This will ensure your house is still standing when returning home from an outing or after going to bed. You won’t feel chained to the house simply to “watch” your broth. It really is a personal preference. There is a slight difference in the taste and quality of the broth using a gas cook top vs the slow cooker. Either way make sure your pot or stock pot has the lid on so the condensation will fall back into the pot and loss of broth fluid is minimal. If you are in the market for a new stock pot, look for pots made of stainless steel, and I recommend a deep pot with straight sides. A large pot will allow you to make double or triple the amount of stock at one time, which you can then freeze in portion sizes for later use. I for one prefer to cook a large batch of broth once, rather than many smaller batches.
Slow and steady is essential for cooking broth. Controlling temperature is a key way to ensure a gelatinous broth and you cannot do that with many slow cookers. You want to maintain a super low temperature, and if you only see one bubble pop up to the surface every minute, that is fine, you do not need to turn the temperature up despite your instincts to do so. If the broth is boiling too vigorously, it will make the broth quite “dirty”. Excess heat will also destroy the collagen which is what creates the gelatin and that perfect jelly like consistency. If you are unsure, err on the side of a low temp rather than high.
3. Length of cooking time
Once you get to that perfect just below simmer temperature, the bones must sit in that liquid for a lengthy period of time. Chicken requires between 12 and 24 hours, while beef and lamb need 24-48 and even up to 72 hours. If this time is cut short, then it may not be enough time for the gelatin along with other nutrients to be extracted from the bones.
4. Water levels
A major reason for a broth lacking that wobbly texture is the water to bone ratio. There is no need to focus on the number of bones in your pot, but rather the ratio of bones to water weight. If there is too much water and not enough bones, then the broth will remain a liquid. Of course the size the bones have been cut will have an impact on how high they are in the pot, but a general rule to follow is to have the water level just covering the bones. This generally means approximately 3kg bones to 4 litres water. It is best to err on the side of too many bones, as you can always dilute your broth at the end, but cannot add extra bones!
5. Bone qualityBone quality is essential when making broth. If a chicken carcass was previously cooked, what ingredients were used to stuff the chicken? Just remember they will contribute to the flavour of your broth and if something like lemon was used, it may make the broth bitter. Chicken carcasses generally don’t offer a lot of gelatin, however when combined with chicken’s feet and necks, the collagen content increases dramatically. Beef bones also need to be a combination of joint bones, marrow bones, ribs and neck bones to get the best results. It is also very important to use organic grass fed bones when possible, or the process can be rather futile as you will be absorbing any chemicals the animal has been exposed to.
Lastly there are some extra questions that always pop up:
Should you roast your bones in the oven first?
This is optional. Browning the bones will certainly add more flavour to your broth and improve the colour, but it does add an extra step, and reduce the nutritional benefits of the bone broth.
What do you do with all that fat on top of the broth?
The fat is arguably the most nutrient dense part of your broth and has absorbed all the minerals during cooking time. I you don’t like to drink an oily broth, skim the fat and keep it to use as a cooking fat. It has exceptional flavour and a nice high smoke point so is a much safer option than most oils.
What do I do with the meat and veg in my broth?
Keep them and eat them! They are full of nutrients and have been cooked in broth. The meat will be super tender and the veggies soft and squishy. It is even an option to blend this up to a puree for baby food! And pets just LOVE it.
Can you reuse bones?
Large bones can definitely be re-used. It will make a weaker and slightly less nutritious broth, but certainly still packs some punch. Just be mindful that the bones need to go straight into a freezer as once they hit room temperature, cooked soft bones become a nasty bacterial breeding ground within seconds.
Can I use veggie scraps in my broth?
Definitely make use of veggie scraps. Make use of the bottoms of carrots, the head and tails of your onion, the base of celery.
I hope I have helped shed some light on the common issues when making your own bone broth, and helped you overcome some fears. If you have any questions don't hesitate to ask. The more broth we are all drinking the better!
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