Soul-satisfying Bone Broth

Rich, delicious bone broth–this batch was seasoned with onion and fresh rosemary

Rarely a day goes by I don’t extol the virtues of bone broth to someone.

Having made the decision to keep a crock-pot of it on hand at all times, I’ve come to deeply appreciate its virtues, both culinary and medicinally (and, in my life, the two generally go together!)

My first taste of bone broth came in the chicken and dumpling soups my Grandma Linda would make throughout my childhood.  I’m not too certain her methodology, but I do clearly remember a very rich butteriness, flecked with parsley, sizable bits of chicken and chewy, salty dumplings, all swimming in a sunny sea in a Corning Ware bowl.  I’m sure the dumplings were made with Bisquik (which I’d steer clear of today, instead figuring a way to use sprouted spelt flour and ghee or lard), but the chicken broth stands out as the golden essence of love in a bowl.

Happy chance when I began my study of Eastern Nutrition at Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, and we fell upon the use of bone broths.  The discussion of their use in convalescence from all sorts of traumas, from surgery to childbirth, to recovery from bone-crunching injuries, struck me as very reasonable and in keeping with the sage wisdom of Asian medicine.

Bone broths are full of many of the bits we pay for in our modern-day supplement and vitamin regimens–magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, collagen, easy-to-assimilate amino acids, glucosamine, chondroitin.  And the real beauty is that these components (and many others not mentioned!) are in a very bio-available form, so they are a breeze for you to put to use.

Traditional Chinese Medicine has long praised these virtues, and has used this kitchen medicine to repair a damaged body and return it to full capacity.  And I would argue, with the toxic-load we are exposed to in this modern day and age, we need this type of food more than ever.  From electro-magnetic fields, to depleted, pesticide-laced, MSG- and  GMO-tainted foods, to overworked and under-rested bodies, we are pushed to our limits.  And there is nothing quite as settling, nourishing and substantive as a rich bone broth.

To further capitalize on the wisdom of Chinese Medicine, I will sometimes include an additional ingredient–organ meats. Usually it is a liver, but I am happy to use heart as well.  The choice depends on what I hope to achieve in the broth’s nutrition profile.  If there are issues with failing eyesight, connective tissue problems, gynecological concerns, exhaustion and insomnia, then inclusion of a grass-fed, organic liver might be in order.  For cardiovascular issues, anemia and anxiety, then heart might be a good choice.  The wisdom goes, if there is a lacking in a given organ or in the tissues that are governed by that organ, then consume that organ to build the organ and tissues in the patient.

And if one looks at the nutrition profile of different organs, it is easy to see the reasoning.  Liver is rich in B-vitamins, protein, iron, CoQ10, and Vitamin A making it an excellent source for the nutrition to support the building of new blood cells and the various tissues of the body.  Heart is also rich in protein and CoQ10, each comprising the building blocks and energy source of the heart muscle, respectively.

In the yumminess of a broth, these incredibly nutritious foods come easily to the palate of even the fussiest eaters.  Much of the nutrition of the organ makes its way into the broth, without the need to actually eat the organ.

Plan to start your broth with 2-3 bones–a mix of marrow, neck, oxtail and shank, maybe a piece of organ meat, purified water, Celtic Sea Salt, an acid (usually raw apple cider vinegar or lemon juice) and a bit of onion.

Place everything into a cool crock-pot, and set it for a 4-hour cooking.  Fill the pot with enough water to leave only about 1.5″ of space at the top, then cover with the lid.

You may want to start your broth as you go to bed, and let it cook through the night.  In the morning you’ll have a broth that is incredibly rich–sometimes so rich, a splash of vinegar in each serving is helpful to cut the oiliness of this first draft, or you might skim much of the fat off to use later to sauté vegetables.  Next pour in enough boiling water to replace the liquid  just removed, add a healthy pinch of Celtic Sea Salt, and keep the pot on the “Keep Warm” setting, which, on our pot is 190 degrees Fahrenheit, beating out the needed 180 degrees to keep pathogens at bay.

Throughout the day, use the broth as a base for cooking soaked and sprouted grains, as the steaming medium for chopped veggies, as a sauce base, as a wonderful beverage, and as the liquid to a quick “bowl soup”–just take some fresh greens (spinach, spring greens, soft chard), some slices of avocado–and pour the hot broth and some chunks of meat over the cold, fresh foods.  Let it sit for a few minutes, and in no time, you’ll have a wonderful, quick soup.  Topping with a dash of vinegar is an absolute delight!

Keep repeating the process of drawing off of the broth, and replacing with boiling water and a pinch of Celtic sea salt, maintaining the temperature at on the “Keep Warm” setting.  By the end of the first day, plan to have all meaty bits out of the broth, though you may keep the bones from larger animals in an extra day or two.  By the third day, strain the remaining broth from the bones and complete what remains of the broth.  Plan to start a new batch on the fourth day.

It should be noted to always use grass-fed,  pastured, organically-raised sources for meats, bones and organs.  There is real concern for toxicity if doing otherwise, whether blatant or as an insidious build-up over time. And even if a chicken is organic, if it’s been kept in a cage, its subsequent broth will not have the nutritious gelatin as part of its composition.  It’s just worth it to pay the extra and make the effort to find a source that meets these standards.  And, when using bones and organs, the cost is incremental to the standard cost of a muscle meat, making this option much more feasible for even the tightest of budgets.  Additionally, bone broth, rich in gelatin, allows for less meat consumption, if drunk throughout the day with meals.

Here’s a basic recipe for bone broth, using beef bones.  You can also use this recipe for lamb, and it could be replicated for bison, too.

Basic Bone Broth

  • 1 large Shank Bone (2 pounds or so)
  • 1 Neck Bone (1-2 pounds)
  • 1 Oxtail (1-2 pounds)
  • 1/2 pound Liver, if you like (rinse under cold water and remove any bandy parts)
  • 1 Onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2-4 Tablespoons Celtic Sea Salt, or to taste
  • 1/4 cup Vinegar (raw Apple Cider, naturally fermented Rice or organic Balsamic) or the juice of 1-2 lemons
  • 1/2 cup Wine (not necessary, though I like what it does to the flavor profile–I use organic reds for beef, lamb and bison, and organic whites for chicken, fish and turkey)
  • Enough purified water to fill the crock pot just shy of 1.5″ full

Place all ingredients in pot and place on 4-hour setting.  As you take the broth from the pot, replace with the same amount of boiling water and a pinch of sea salt.  Keep the pot at the Keep Warm setting and consume all meat/organ portions within the end of the first day.  The bones may remain in another day or two.  Plan to consume all your broth within 3 days of first starting it if using this perpetual method, where it maintains a hot temperature.  Any longer and proteins and fats can begin to degrade.