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Frugal Health- The Benefits of Bone Broth

Beef Stew Made with Homemade Beef Stock

Beef Stew Made with Homemade Beef Stock

Good broth resurrects the dead. South American Proverb

What if I told you that there was a ridiculously easy and inexpensive way to improve your health, reduce pain, and get more nutrition. No pills with nasty side effects. No expensive supplements. It wouldn’t take much time out of your day to prepare, tastes great, and will make your house smell great. would you want to know what could do all that?  Of course, you would! The answer: bone broths.

Bone broths, which are technically bone stocks, are loaded with minerals, electrolytes, gelatin, the components of cartilage (glucosamine  and chondroitin), and collagen, all in an easy to assimilate form. Our modern lives and diets deplete our bodies of these necessary nutrients and substances. Bone broth puts them all back in.

How important are all these minerals and whatnot? Well, without enough calcium, we are at risk for a host of conditions such as: osteoporosis, hypertension (high blood pressure), problems with hormone regulation, weight gain, fatigue, depression, and cardiac arrhythmia. Iodine deficiencies can lead to hypothyroidism or goiter, frequent respiratory infections, fatigue, weight gain, depression, and lack of focus. Collagen is known to help build strong hair and nails, as well as encourage more youthful skin. Arthritis, both osteo and rheumatoid, are helped by the easy-to-assimilate minerals, as well as cartilage-building substances (osteo) and collagen (rheumatoid) in bone broths. Gelatin helps to ease digestive discomforts, such as colitis and Crohn’s disease.

Our ancestors from all over the world made bone broths from whatever animal bone and vegetable scraps to which they had access. Not only did this keep them healthy, vital, and strong, it was delicious. This was part of their medicine. For them, it was both preventative and curative. And they didn’t need a health insurance plan, a primary care physician, a specialist, pharmaceuticals, or have to worry about long-term side effects, co-pays, or contraindications.

Our grandmothers and grandfathers stretching back into human history knew how to make a proper stock. The food industry, however, has turned their delicious, nutritious, and very economical stock into expensive, salty, MSG-laden, lifeless liquids that are probably do more harm than good to your health- including the certified “organic” broths. Thankfully, making a good bone broth is a skill that is seeing a resurgence. And it is really, really, simple.

Be sure to use the best bones that you can get. I’ve tried using the carcass of store-bought, rotisserie chicken. My mom buys them frequently, and I just can’t see letting the scraps go to waste. And while the end result tastes fine, it hasn’t yet passed the “jell” test. When you take your stock out of the pot, strain all the bones, veggies, and misc. bits, let the clear liquid cool, and then refrigerate overnight, by morning the stock should have thickened into a jiggly jell, which is evidence of a good gelatin content.

I have never had problems getting my stock to jell using bones and bits from naturally-raised animals purchased directly from farmers. Most of the chickens I’ve purchased in grocery stores that were specifically labelled as  “raised without hormones & antibiotics” have jelled satisfactorily most of the time. The chickens that do not have such labels, and the pre-cooked rotisserie birds have produced flavorful stocks that unfortunately do not jell. I’m assuming that the conditions and poor nutrition of factory farmed animals is not conducive to a proper, nutrient-dense stock.

OK, so what actually goes in the stockpot? Just about everything that you do not eat off the animal at the table- the carcass, gizzards, head, feet, pan drippings, veggie scraps, and something acidic, usually vinegar. The vinegar encourages the bones to release their nutritional stores into the stock. Most chickens do not come with heads on at the grocery store. I’ve made well-jelled stock without the heads and feet, but you get more gelatin in your stock when you can use the heads and feet. They also do not sell fish heads either. While a stock may jell without the head, you are not getting the iodine that the head would have provided. Asian markets can supply chickens with the head and feet still attached and fish heads and fish carcasses. My preferred method, however, is to look for a local farmer and fish monger who you can ask to either leave these parts on or put them aside for you.

I frequently make chicken and beef stock, because those are the bones I have the easiest time getting. But don’t limit yourself to just those. Try making lamb, bison, venison, fish, and shrimp. Mix things up like crab, crawfish, and/or lobster shells with fish heads and bones, and toss in some shrimp for a rich seafood stock full of iodine. Throw together chicken, turkey, and duck parts.  If you hunt and have several game animals, include venison, moose, elk bones, hooves, maybe some antler. Throw in onions, potatoes, carrots, celery, whatever you have. Add some vinegar, pan drippings, herbs and spices. OK, maybe a little salt- but not like the storebought stocks.  They only add that much salt to trick your brain into thinking you are actually tasting something good, when without the salt, there is no taste at all.

Storage is easy. Cook the broth down until you have a thick, concentrated liquid. Pour the liquid into your ice cube  tray. Pop the out concentrated stock-turned-into-ice-cubes into a plastic bag, and that’s it. When you need stock, just add liquid. You could also can the broth if you do not want to rely on or take up freezer storage, but there will be some nutrient loss. Even so, it is a better option than store bought.

General Instructions for Making Bone Broth
Put the bones and bits into the stockpot or crock pot, cover with cold water, add vinegar, let sit for an hour. Bigger bones, like a cow’s shin bone take more vinegar than small bones, like chicken or rabbit. Small bones get by with a couple of tablespoons of vinegar, whereas the bigger bones need more, like a half cup. Then, put it on to boil (a crock pot on high will work). A scum or foam will start to form on top. Take a slotted spoon and remove the scum. Add herbs, spices, seasonings, reduce heat to a simmer, put the lid on, and walk away. Go do something else, like knit, fold some laundry, watch a movie, read my blog, etc. It needs to cook for at least an hour, but it’s better to let it go for 24 hours or longer. If you have a wood stove that goes all winter long, you can just leave it on top, and it won’t cost you a dime in energy. Just make sure that it has plenty of water to cover the bones if you go to bed. If you use a gas or electric stove, take the stock off of the stove before you go to sleep. If you use a crock pot, you can let it go all night long on it’s lowest setting.

To read more about the power of bone broths, check out Sally Fallon’s amazing book, Nourishing Traditions, The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats. In my opinion, this should be required reading for everyone. To order a copy, click on the link below. Or, check out my sStore on the Store page.

Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats

About the author

Homesteading Mom

Homesteading Mom is run by Cat Ellis, an herbalist, prepper and aspiring homesteader. Cat is the author of two books, Prepper's Natural Medicine and Prepping for a Pandemic. Cat Ellis also blogs at KetoCat.com, HerbalPrepper.com, and TheOrganicPrepper.com.

  • Candice says:
    I have read that gelatin can aggravate herpes symptoms. Does the gelatin created by bone broth fall under the same category?
    • Cat, The Homesteading Mom says:
      Hi Candace, I had to do a little research on this because it's not something I've ever heard of before. What I found was that gelatin can be high in Arginine, and low in Lysine, and those two conditions can aggravate herpes in some people. It is not recommended to stop all consumption of Arginine. In general, it is best to continue some consumption, but only to your individual tolerance. Hope that helps!

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