Bone Broth 101: How to Make the Best Broth
Steph’s note: Today’s awesome tutorial is brought to you by Ryan Harvey, founder of Bare Bones Broth Co. Bare Bones offers hand-crafted broth shipped right to you, but if you’re more of a DIY type of person, Ryan shares some of the secrets for making the best bone broth right here for you.
All About Bone Broth
So what’s the big deal with bone broth these days? It has less to do with bone broth and more to do with the rising awareness of the role our gut health plays in the overall health of our mind, body and soul.
We’re finally starting to acknowledge that what we use to fuel our bodies directly affects the way we think, the things we do and how well we do them. Often referred to as our “second brain,” the human gut is home to over 10 trillion bacteria, a number no human can fully comprehend, yet we’re always looking for and believing in that one all-inclusive lab-manufactured antidote promised to make us feel better.
News flash: There isn’t just one food, one medicine or one supplement. There is, however, bone broth, which can be added to any diet as any or all three of these things. What other real food source contains as many bio-available vitamins and easily assimilated nutrients and extracts of pure collagen (A.K.A gelatin), skin, bone and fat ⎼ you know, the stuff that pretty much makes us human, gives us our silky smooth skin and allows us to grunt beautifully while hitting our max power snatch with ease.
Funny thing about bone broth: It’s nothing new. In fact, broths and stocks have been used for centuries by cultures around the world as a remedy to anything and everything. It also happens to be the base for all cooking, as it’s the first thing you would learn how to make in kitchens around the world as a chef’s apprentice or culinary student.
It’s what stops a stomachache dead in its tracks by soothing and healing the gut, and it quickly returns our joints to normal after an intense workout or rigorous hike. We have the natural occurring gelatin and glucosamine to thank for this; something all commercially available broths lack.
With that said, I want to share a handful of factors that will influence the outcome of your homemade bone broth. Got gelatin?
Factor #1 That Makes Great Bone Broth: Animal’s Upbringing
When deciding how to fuel my body, I always ask where my fuel came from and how it came to be.
Chances are, if you are here reading this then you and I have something in common. It’s no secret that what the animal eats, we eat. This doesn’t just apply to meat. Bones contain marrow, and marrow in turn pretty much contains the essence of our being.
If we’re healthy, that’s great but if we’re sick, our marrow is sick. The same goes for animals. The whole idea is that we’re extracting all this healthy good stuff from the animal and using it as both a food and a medicine for our bodies.
Believe it or not, this all matters on a molecular level, where everything that makes you you is working hard to maintain your optimal health as efficiently as possible. If the animal was factory farmed, ate garbage and didn’t see a pasture a day in its life, you won’t be doing your body any favors in the long run by using its bones.
Pardon my soapbox, but supporting the ranchers and farmers that raise pastured animals and grow organic produce is the only way we’ll ever see a change in our current food system. You want better access to healthy and sustainably raised meats and fresh produce? Then find and support a farm. I’ve seen numerous farms and ranches here in Southern California grow rapidly under the support of enthusiastic communities looking towards a better future in food.
Factor #2 That Makes Great Bone Broth: Animal’s Age
That’s right. Animals are no different from us in that their bones and joints wear down and degrade over time, reducing the amount of connective tissue and consequently reducing the amount of gelatin that will end up in your broth.
The younger the animal, the more gelatinous your broth will be. Veal bones, joints, feet and necks would yield the most gelatin, as these animals are butchered very young.
You can usually find veal bones at a local butcher for a decent price. Stocks made from veal are a chef’s secret weapon in the kitchen, taking everything from soups and sauces to risottos and braised meats to the next level.
Factor #3 That Makes Great Bone Broth: Bone Type
This is where most people run into trouble.
In my experience the most commercially available bones are usually beef or veal femurs. Femurs are great as they contain a ton of marrow but very little collagen. You want a good mix of bones, joints and feet. I suggest using a 1:1:1 ratio of bones, joints and feet. This will almost guarantee you achieve that victorious gel.
Just remember to always use joints and feet, this is where you will find the most collagen. If you can’t find all of these, go ahead and make your broth with whatever you can get your hands on, you’ll still benefit greatly from the added vitamins and nutrients.
Factor #4 That Makes Great Bone Broth: Bone to Water Ratio
Whether it’s in a crockpot or on your stove, add water just to cover the bones, and no more.
This is where a lot of folks think they’ve messed up. You’ve spent all those hours simmering away, finally cooling and refrigerating your liquid gold only to wake up in the morning to find no jiggle. You haven’t been defeated! Simply bring your broth back up to a gentle simmer and let evaporation take over. Reduce your broth by an inch or so, cool and refrigerate. If it’s still not jiggling, repeat the process.
A combination of things could have happened here – too much water, bones from sick animals, or you simply didn’t let it simmer long enough. In most cases, the gelatin simply isn’t concentrated enough to give your broth a Jello-like consistency. This is OKAY. Your broth is still loaded with plenty of good stuff.
Try not to get so caught up on the aesthetics. I see people everyday crying out for help because their broth didn’t gel, as if the broth gods are smiting their attempt at glory.
Factor #5 That Makes Great Bone Broth: Time
The beautiful thing about making broth is that once started, it requires very little attention.
The biggest issue here is not letting your broth simmer long enough. We simmer our beef broth for 48 hours and 24 hours for our chicken. Simmering for multiple days is a great way to really get everything out of the bones.
Something we do, and that I highly suggest, is to wait until you have 6-8 hours left to add your vegetables or leafy greens, such as parsley or leaves on your celery. This will prevent any bitter or burnt tastes from being imparted into your broth. The vegetables can only be cooked for so long before they begin to break down, giving your broth and undesirable and often burnt flavor.
It only takes 8 or so hours at a simmer to extract the nutrients and flavor from them, anyway. Anything much longer than this and the vegetables become sponges, soaking up all your hard-earned nutrients.
In my opinion, those are the most important things to keep in mind when making bone broth. As with most things, the more you make it the better you will get. And the better you will get at noticing all these little idiosyncrasies during the process, like waiting to add your veggies until later in the process. It took me several burnt, bitter and off-flavored batches before I finally started figuring out at what times to add what ingredients.
A Simple Bone Broth Recipe
Run through this simple checklist when making any bone broth your gut desires:
- Roast any bones beforehand for added depth and flavor, except fish.
- Put bones in pot and add water just to cover bones.
- Add your acid to help draw out the good stuff. We use apple cider vinegar.
- Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.
- Skim, skim and skim some more. Scum and impurities rise to the top during the initial simmer phase. Simply skim, discard and keep simmering.
- Once there is no longer any scum rising to the surface, keep simmering, adding water only to cover the bones as necessary.
- Prep your veggies. Peel onions, as the peel can impart a burnt or bitter flavor.
- After about 15-18 hours for chicken and 35-40 hours for beef, add your veggies, herbs and spices. Wait until the final hour to add parsley or celery leaves.
- Return to a simmer for the final leg, and this time don’t worry about adding more water. You want the nutrients and gelatin to concentrate as we bring in the flavors from the veggies and herbs.
- Add your parsley and / or celery greens if desired. Let simmer for another hour or two.
- That’s it. You’ve done it! Strain your broth and cool it down or use immediately for making your favorite soup, stew, sauce or meat dish!
If you’re ever short on time or can’t seem to procure bones from healthy animals come check us out at Bare Bones Broth Co.! We’ll ship our broths directly to your door, nationwide!
Questions about making bone broth? Leave them in the comments below!