Bone Broth Revisited

You’ve likely heard various diet fads touting the incredible benefits of bone broth: a slow-cooked broth made with animal bones.  You can purchase jars of bone broth at most health food stores for anywhere from $9 to $20 a pint.  But do the physical benefits your body gets really merit that kind of expense?

If you have any farms near where you live, or even a decent farmers market, you can easily buy the materials to craft your own mineral and collagen-rich bone broth at home for under $10.  I generally make a big batch of it once a month or so in my 7-quart slow cooker, utilizing vegetable scraps that I’ve saved from cooking meals every night as well as dried mushrooms I had foraged over the summer, dried seaweed, and whatever tiny bits of fresh herbs are still poking their heads up above the snow in winter. 

Tossing medicinal mushrooms into my crock pot of bone broth

You can make bone broth any time of year, but winter is often the time our bodies need it the most; that time of year we are more sedentary, allowing our poor knees to suffer from lack of regular exercise and stuck indoors, catching whatever virus the kids brought home from school. 

If you can pick up some local beef bones or a locally-raised chicken to roast, you will be provided with enough bone, sinew, and fat to improve the functioning of your gut, give you healthier skin, and grease the cartilage in your joints.

I recommend buying local pasture-raised meats or bones as not only does in decrease the carbon footprint of the products you are about to eat but allowing the animals to forage on pasture is scientifically-proven to be better for both the animal and the person eating their meat, unlike feeding them on corn or soy like the larger commercial feedlots do.  100% Grass-fed meat is defined as an animal that was raised fully on pasture, eating their natural diet of grass and other plant materials found while foraging.  This is true for beef, lamb, or pork (although being a farmer, I would have to say God bless anyone who wants to raise their pigs solely on pasture.)

It’s important to note that chickens (and all poultry), on the other hand, are omnivores.  This is a critical distinction you ought to keep in mind when buying eggs, by the way—I personally think “vegetarian-fed” eggs are cruelty to the poor chickens. If you’ve ever watched chickens pecking around someone yard or field, you’ll notice them scratching up the earth and digging for insects.  Bugs aren’t vegetarian! The chickens require the extra protein in their diet found from insects and other “meats,” as soy stops their bodies from being able to properly assimilate the nutrients in the other grains found in normal poultry feed.  Buying pasture-raised chicken is going to result in the best tasting meat AND the most nutrient-dense bone broth from the remaining carcass.

Another benefit of making your own bone broth, especially if you use some nice big chunks of beef thigh or shank, is the bone marrow.  You don’t want to waste that nutritional powerhouse that comes free with the bones; bone marrow is incredibly rich brain food! Recent evidence suggests that eating and scavenging other predator’s kills for bone marrow is one of the things that caused new neurons to form in the human brain and allow hominids to develop the way we did.  Our brains got bigger and better at processing information, evolving us into the apex predator of the world.

When you make bone broth with a full chicken or turkey carcass, or even better, some kind of joint bones from a ruminant such as a cow or sheep, your resulting concoction will be extremely rich in collagen.  This is the substance your joints require to lubricate themselves.  No more knees cracking and creaking like bubble wrap when you take that flight of stairs!  It’s also a primary lubricant of skin cells, as you can probably deduce from the number of collagen-based face creams available in stores today.  You don’t have to be a beautician to appreciate having skin that stays soft and supple rather than dry or cracked. 

Finished bone broth ready to go into the freezer

The gut-healing benefits of bone broth are nothing to shy away from either.  I’ve helped several clients regain their gut health, heal recurring ulcers, and repair their microbiome utilizing homemade bone broth as a catalyst for change.  High quality bone broth drank a few times a week can act as a prebiotic to feed healthy gut bacteria, help reverse the effects of SIBO, and heal the walls of the gut lining that have been affected by IBS, Crohn’s Disease, or Ulcerative colitis

So, is bone broth “worth it?” In my opinion, absolutely!  I personally prefer to make my own rather than buy it in less-than adequate quantities at the store.  A small jar of bone broth from the store is only going to give you maybe two mugs full or be enough to add to a soup or stew.  If you make your own, however, you will provide yourself with enough to add to the water for boiling your pasta or rice, turn into an inflammation-fighting ramen soup, or drink as a hot breakfast on a cold winter morning.

Bone broth: warmth, comfort, and painkiller in a cup.

Bone Broth!

You have probably heard of bone broth by now– slow cooking beef or chicken bones with other herbs and Vegetables for long periods of time to leech out all the good nutrition inside. They actually sell bone broth at grocery store markets now, for around $7-10 for less than a quart size jar! But did you know you can make your own amazingly immune-boosting bone broth yourself for less than $5 for a huge batch?

Roast the bones at 350 F for half an hour with some salt and pepper first, helps give a nice flavor

The best bones to use are going to come from a local small farm, so buy those if you can find some. If you can’t, most grocery stores do sell bones with very little meat or just some marrow visible. These are good to use as well.

The vegetables may take a little more preparation, but you can start now. The way I do it is that any time I cook dinner, I save the little bits and scraps of onion ends, garlic nubs, potato peel, celery ends, etc and put them all in a Ziploc bag in the freezer. I add to the bag every time I cook and eventually, there ends up being enough to just throw in the pot. If I roast a chicken and have picked off all the meat I can get, I throw that into the big crock pot with my bag of veggies scraps and some salt and pepper and just cook it on low for a day or so. If you haven’t been saving your veggies scraps, though, you can just rough chop a carrot, some celery (break in half,) cut an onion in quarters, throw in those nasty little pieces of garlic that are hell to peel (don’t bother peeling anything) and some salt and pepper. I also like to add a little seaweed and some mushrooms if I can, as well as whatever herbs or green things I can forage out in the yard. Calendula is an EXCELLENT herb to add to bone broth, as it helps enhance the gut healing properties of the batch.

Here’s one I made with chicken feet! They have lots of extra collagen

Throw everything in the crock pot, cover with water almost to the top, and DON’T FORGET to add 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar; this helps leech the minerals from the bones. Cook on low 24 hours or more. The end result may need some extra salt (it tends to cook off), but you can either drink it in a mug, freeze it in batches, use it as a base for soups, cook your rice and pasta in it, or whatever. Great for when you are sick! Bone broth is extremely helpful in healing the gut lining and is my first go-to remedy for gut ailments.

Do you make bone broth?