In this post, I’ll be sharing with you the method of how to make the best, most flavorful homemade bone broth, which is used in most traditional cooking cultures as a base for many dishes. Whenever a recipe calls for chicken or beef broth, we typically assume that you have to boil the meat. Another more affordable, more nutritious, and easier option is to boil the bones. In Egypt, a gelatin-rich broth is often made with economical kawareh (alternate spelling includes kaware3), or calves’ feet. In other cultures, it’s sometimes referred to as “trotters’ soup”, though that’s typically in reference to pigs’ feet. I haven’t been able to find calves’ feet in the U.S., but knuckle bones and meaty marrow bones make for a fine alternative, and I purchase these directly from a local farm. You can use beef, calf, lamb, or bison bones for a meaty, hearty bone broth. You can also use poultry like chicken, squab, duck, or turkey bones to make broth. Finally, fish broth is exceptionally nutritious, but you have to use wild-caught whole fish with carcasses and heads.
For the record, even though the words “broth” and “stock” are used interchangeably, they refer to slightly different things. According to The Kitchn, stock is basically unseasoned broth. Boiling vegetable scraps, meat, and bones in water yields a basic stock that may not taste that delicious on its own. When you add seasonings including spices, herbs, or wine, the stock is transformed to a broth that tastes good on its own or as a base to various dishes.
The Problem with Packaged Broth
Legendary French chef Auguste Escoffier, even back in the 1800s, was known for saying that “stock is everything in cooking … without it, nothing can be done.” Here’s the thing: in order to be a good cook, you have to make broth at home. There are no two ways about it — without homemade broth, you will always produce an inferior dish if it calls for broth. This is because packaged broth, even the organic variety, both tastes bad and isn’t even good for your health. It goes without saying that bouillon cubes are processed junk food, but organic store-bought broths didn’t seem so bad to me when I first got married five years ago. When I didn’t know better, I used to buy a popular brand of shelf-stable organic broths from Costco. They were organic and low-sodium, after all. What more can a cook need? But something about them never felt right because they had a funky smell, they tasted stale, and I always wondered how in the world they came to be shelf-stable in containers with a plastic lining, without need for freezing or refrigeration. I decided to look into that…
I learned that these broths are typically cooked at very high temperatures and are heavily watered down — because of course, it’s not economical for companies to provide a concentrated, nutrient-dense broth in massive quantities. Furthermore, in order to make broths shelf-stable for many months without refrigeration, the boxes of cooked broth have to be aseptic-processed, or flash-heated to a temperature of about 295°F, to make both the boxes and the broth sterile. These aseptic boxes are made of paper with an inside lining of polyethylene (plastic) and aluminum… which of course, aren’t chemicals humans are designed to ingest.
What’s worse is that because they are watered down and flash-heated in plastic, they often need added flavors to mask the off-flavor (or the lack of flavor) that results from this process. So on a typical box of organic low-sodium chicken broth, you’ll find ingredients like “organic chicken flavor”, “yeast extract”, and cane sugar (guess you have to add sugar if you’ll take out salt). I then came to learn that these flavors and yeast extract could actually forms of hidden manufactured MSG (monosodium glutamate) used as flavor enhancers. And because the FDA classifies MSG as natural, it can hide behind non-threatening names of additives in organic products. After reading about the fact that humans have receptors in their tongues for naturally-occurring amino acid glutamate (the savory, meaty taste often referred to as umami), and then learning about the side effects of manufactured MSG, it was very clear to me that I need to only make my own broths and to quit buying any packaged kinds.
How I Started Making My Own Broth
When I first learned about USDA organic foods, I didn’t realize that the rules in place did not take into account many factors, especially in the case of animal foods. For example, with beef, organic means no pesticides in feed, and no unnecessary antibiotics or hormones … but it doesn’t mean grass-fed beyond 30% of the time. Grain feed including corn and soy are unnatural foods for cattle, leading to health problems, and to an improper balance of the omega fats in the meat and fat of the animal once it’s consumed by humans.
Around the same time I learned all this, I was also exposed to the book Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon, founder of the nutrition education non-profit, the Weston A. Price Foundation. In order to make nutritious broth, I had to get my hands on pasture-raised animals. Through farmers’ markets and websites like Local Harvest, I started buying a lot of my food including meat directly from grass-based farms. Once, I bought bison marrow bones, and another time, lamb bones and beef bones. They were very affordable, only costing anywhere from $2 to $5 per lb, depending on how much meat is left on the bones. For chicken, I would buy whole chickens instead of chicken parts, which I learned cost more just for the processing. I can either boiled them for stock or roasted whole — I learned that the carcass can then be used to make broth! Can you imagine I thought I was getting a deal with the packaged broths being $2/quart? It turns out that homemade grass-fed bone broth can be made for as little as $0.5/quart. Healthier and cheaper — it can’t get better than this.
The Healing Benefits of Homemade Bone Broth
But it gets better. Anytime someone comes down with a cold, my grandparents and parents are always quick to suggest homemade broth. Turns out there’s something about broth that truly has a healing effect — not just for the common cold, but also for joint problems, digestive distress, cramps, and other conditions. The healing benefits of broth are not a new revelation either — in fact, the earliest mention of broth being used for its medicinal properties is in the ancient writings of 12th century Egyptian physician Moses Miamonides, who prescribed broth for colds and asthma. Miamonides was also known for saying: “No disease that can be treated by diet should be treated with any other means.” (Imagine that — a doctor prescribing broth instead of artificial “electrolyte drinks” as a remedy for colds would be wonderful in our day and age!). Additionally, ancient Egyptians used the gelatin from bone broth to make a savory aspic for their banquets (Wise Choice Market). Broth was also used for its healing properties in Chinese medicine, Jewish tradition, African heritage, European cooking, and many other ancient cultures throughout the world.
Broth made with bones from pasture-raised animals is especially healthful since the bones themselves add some important, health-promoting substances to the broth including: amino acids, electrolyte minerals, bone marrow, gelatin, and collagen from cartilage-rich knuckle bones. According to the Weston A. Price Foundation, “Stock contains minerals in a form the body can absorb easily—not just calcium but also magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulphur and trace minerals. It contains the broken down material from cartilage and tendons–stuff like chondroitin sulphates and glucosamine, now sold as expensive supplements for arthritis and joint pain” (WAPF).
How to Use Homemade Broth
Homemade broth should be strained first from the bones and veggies. If there’s any marrow left in the bones, I like to eat the marrow with a little salt while it’s hot. As for the veggies, I keep them for making a thicker blended soup (pictured below). The broth can be stored in the coldest part of the fridge for about a week or a maximum of 10 days. If you keep the fat layer on top (which hardens in the fridge), then the broth will stay good for longer since the fat separates it from outside contaminants. You can also freeze the broth, but make sure to leave some room at the top of the jars since liquid expands in the freezer.
Homemade Bone Broth
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 4-24 hours
Keywords: boil roast soup/stew low-carb nut-free paleo primal soy-free sugar-free bones beef broth chicken fall spring summer winter
Ingredients (5-6 quarts of broth)
- 6 quarts cold filtered water (add the water after you add the bones into the pot)
- 3 lbs of bones from pasture-raised beef, bison, lamb, or carcass of poultry like chicken, turkey or duck. If you can find them, a mixture of marrow soup bones and knuckle bones are great for yielding the most nutritious broth. You can also add calf or chicken feet to increase the gelatin in the broth.
- 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 large onion, quartered
- 3 large carrots, chopped into large pieces
- 3 celery sticks, chopped into large pieces
- A few sprigs fresh thyme, rosemary and/or sage
- 5 cardamom pods, crushed
- A couple of dried bay leaves
- Unrefined salt and black pepper
- A small bunch of fresh parsley (optional)
- 3-4 pieces of mastic gum (optional, but imparts a wonderful flavor)
- 1-3 cloves of garlic, towards the end of the cooking time (optional)
- crushed eggshells (optional – add for extra calcium; it has no strong flavor)
(1) Defrost the bones: If you received the bones frozen (they usually are if you purchased them from a local farm), thaw them overnight in the fridge or under cold water for a couple of hours.
(2) Roast the bones: Roasted marrow bones make a better tasting stock. Add the meaty and/or marrow bones to a baking dish and roast at 350F for 15-20 minutes till browned. Meanwhile, prepare the other ingredients for your broth.
(3) Add ingredients to a stockpot: In a deep stockpot (preferably 8qt. or larger), add the knuckle bones and roughly chopped mirepoix (onion, carrots, celery). Once the other bones have finished browning, pick them up with tongs and add to the stockpot. Cover with filtered water. Add the apple cider vinegar and let sit, covered and without turning on heat, for about half an hour. The vinegar helps extract some of the minerals in the bones.
(4) Bring to a boil and remove scum: Once the water starts to boil, remove any impurities or “scum” (a word used to refer to the foam that first rises to the top). I prefer adding my seasonings *after* this process so that none of the seasonings are removed along with the scum accidentally. Lower the hear to a slow simmer.
(5) Add the seasonings and other ingredients: Add the other ingredients including any fresh herbs, salt and pepper, mastic gum, etc. Bring to a very quick boil to incorporate, then lower heat to low for a slow simmer. It’s important to not let the bones boil too vigorously.
(6) Leave broth to cook: Bone broth requires some time for all the minerals, amino acids, and other nutrients to be extracted from the bones. The shortest time I’ve cooked bone broth is 4 hours, but that was too short. I’ve let it go as long as 48 hours before, adding a little more *boiled* water to the pot to recover any lost from evaporation. I’ve settled on 24 hours as an ideal cooking time, and it typically results in a wonderfully mineral-rich and tasty broth.
(7) Use and store the broth: You can drink the broth as is with your fresh seasonings of choice, and of course you can use the broth for all your cooking needs. The broth can stay fresh for up to about a week in the fridge. If you don’t skim off the fat, the hardened layer of fat on top will help preserve your broth since it seals it from outside air. If the bones are from pasture-raised animals, then the fat is actually perfectly healthy to use in your cooking. You can also freeze the broth either in jars or even in ice cube trays for ease of use in cooking. When you get in the habit of making broth regularly, you’ll find that you need some help in remembering which jar is which: Make sure to date and label the jars so you know the type of broth or stock and when it was made. The good news is that the actual cooking process for broth is super easy and most of it is actually passive time!