Just look at the depth of colour in that glass of bone broth. You know from its deep caramel hue that it’s full of rich flavour. This nourishing broth, prized for its health properties, is delicious to drink straight out of a mug for breakfast, as part of a light meal or in place of tea anytime during the day. Can you imagine the boost it would add to something like a classic beef stew?
A few months ago, my naturopath recommended that I start consuming bone broth for its health benefits. Somehow, although it’s very trendy right now, I’d missed the bone broth bus and hadn’t even heard of it. So, she gave me the highlights and, not being a food writer for nothing, I understood right away that she was basically talking about a stock. Not just any stock, but one on steroids, so to speak. It’s a new spin on something old-fashioned.
Although I know a fair bit about food and nutrition for a lay person, I’m not a health and wellness expert and won’t be providing detailed information here about the health benefits of bone broth. My naturopath spoke highly of the beneficial effects of the gelatin in it, and it’s also high in amino acids and other nutrients. You can conduct your own research on the internet, perhaps starting out with this article on The Nourished Kitchen site, which I found helpful.
I’ve made quite a few stocks over the years, but typically have simmered them only a few hours. Making a bone broth is about a 24-hour endeavour, to extract as many nutrients from the bones as possible. My naturopath, and some of the internet sites I consulted after my appointment, mentioned that it’s important to add a couple of tablespoons of cider vinegar to the broth to more effectively extract the nutrients. Don’t worry, you won’t notice the flavour at all.
I keep the flavouring of the broth fairly simple so it’s as versatile as possible. When I reheat it, though, I like to adjust the seasonings and add a few slices of fresh ginger for an extra punch of flavour and additional health benefits. So. Tasty.
I’ve made bone broth quite a few times since that conversation with my naturopath. I prefer to make mine from beef, although I also transformed the carcass of my Christmas turkey into broth. In my opinion, making a broth like this is one area where it’s important to use organic ingredients if at all possible, especially the bones. Basically, the idea is to draw all the goodness out of them over a period of about 24 hours, so it stands to reason that you would want to start with a product that’s as wholesome as possible, without the pesticide, hormone and antibiotic residues that can be present in some meats produced otherwise. For similar reasons, I also use filtered water.
I keep the ingredients simple and straightforward: organic beef bones, onions, carrots and celery. I went wild the last time I made it and added a few cloves of garlic. Don’t use any starchy vegetables, like potatoes, or they’ll cloud the broth. To enhance both the flavour level and the colour, I roast the bones and vegetables first to caramelize them.
One last point before getting to the recipe: the long, slow cooking process starts to break down the bones, and they can be somewhat crumbly at the end of the cooking period. I strain the broth through a fine mesh sieve to capture as many bits as possible. From my reading, some people even use a coffee strainer, although I find my sieve does the trick.
While this recipe takes a lot of time, the vast majority of it requires no activity on your part. And at the end of it you’ll have about four quarts of bone broth. That’s a lot of cups of goodness.
This recipe uses beef bones, but I’ve also made a turkey broth following the same method. The quantities indicated are for a six-quart slow cooker and the yield is about four quarts of bone broth. My slow cooker is programmable but I use manual settings for this recipe.
Pre-heat the oven to 425 ℉, and line a large baking tray or two smaller ones with parchment paper. If you have a convection setting for your oven, I suggest you use it to enhance the roasting process.
Make sure that you allow time at the end of the cooking period to safely cool the broth before transferring it into containers for storage in your fridge or freezer. For this process I use two metal bowls: one large enough to contain the broth and another much bigger one to hold ice and water for cooling. You could also use your sink.
A final note: if you’re going to use the broth for cooking in addition to drinking it, freeze some in 1/2 cup and 1 cup portions, as well as some in ice cube trays for when only a bit is needed.
- about 2 pounds organic beef bones
- 4 stalks celery, cut into large sections
- 4 carrots, cut into large chunks
- 1 very large or two medium yellow cooking onions, cut into eighths or quarters
- optional: 4 or 5 whole cloves of garlic
- olive oil for drizzling (maybe about two tablespoons)
- about 2 tsp kosher or sea salt
- about 1 tsp freshly ground pepper
- 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- filtered water
Tumble the bones and vegetables onto the baking tray(s). Drizzle the olive oil over top, then sprinkle with some of the salt and pepper. Toss lightly with your hands to distribute the oil fairly evenly. Space out the bones and vegetables to reduce crowding and promote better caramelization. Put the tray into the oven for about 25 minutes. At that point, turn everything over and roast for another 10 to 15 minutes, or until there is a satisfactory degree of caramelization.
Using tongs and/or a large spatula, transfer the roasted bones and vegetables into the vessel of the slow cooker. Add the vinegar, then pour in filtered water to about a half inch from the top of the slow cooker insert. Add the rest of the salt and pepper. Cook on the ‘high’ setting for two or three hours, or until the liquid is bubbling. Turn the machine to ‘low’ and let it simmer until it’s been cooking for around 24 hours in total. A few hours more or less is fine, if that’s better for your schedule.
Remove the bones first with tongs. If they’re meaty you can set them aside on a plate and strip the meat off afterwards for a cook’s treat. Also pull out the larger chunks of vegetables and put them in a discard bowl. Carefully pour or ladle the broth and remaining vegetables into a strainer set in or over a large metal bowl. Watch for splashing; it’s hot! Once done, gently press on the vegetables in the strainer to extract as much liquid as possible, then put them into your discard bowl. Cool the broth safely and quickly before refrigerating. Keep for no more than a few days in the fridge.
My Method for Cooling A Large Batch of Broth
Scoop a good quantity of ice cubes into the even larger metal bowl (or your clean sink if you prefer), add some cold tap water and set the bowl of hot broth in this. Be careful that the displacement doesn’t flood water into your broth; it’s best to start with less water than you think you’ll need and add more if necessary.
In no time at all, the ice will have melted and the water in the larger bowl will be hot. Remove the bowl of broth, then dump out the large bowl and replenish the ice cubes and cold water. In goes the bowl of broth again. Note: I don’t stir the broth while it’s cooling because I want the fat to separate for easy removal. I let mine sit until the fat on top of the broth is solid enough to lift off with a spatula, but the water in the bigger bowl is still cold. That’s when I skim off the fat and decant the broth into canning jars or other containers. A canning funnel is very handy for this process. I put the broth in the fridge and let it get cold before transferring any containers to the freezer.
It’s important for food safety to cool the broth as quickly as possible and not let it sit out any longer than necessary. Here’s some public safety information on chilling food.