As that holiday busyness ebbs, and I’m mentally gearing up to get back into our regimen, R slowly starts to show signs of illness. Soon enough, it’s become clear that she has hand, foot and mouth disease. Poor babe. Weathering it seems straightforward enough and we’ve armed ourselves with lots of immune-boosting goodness, including sippin’ on bone broth.
Bone broth is a powerhouse of nutrition, and a big comfort to this mama trying to feed her family well. During this second string of single-digit highs (brrrrr!), it’s also the perfect hand and belly warmer. Not only is it a delicious superfood, it’s also free. Yep, our bone broth makes its way to our table at zero extra cost to our family.
Bone broth is not the same as the stock you might pick up in a carton at the grocery store. Both will put out a tasty soup, but bone broth has been simmered for hours to extract minerals and other healing compounds from the bones themselves. Bone broth is often prescribed in gut-healing protocols for its anti-inflammatory benefits. The list of other benefits is lengthy, so we’re thankful that it is easy to keep a steady supply going for our family.
The main ingredients in my bone broth are:
Here’s the zero extra cost part – The vegetables in our bone broth are comprised of all those parts of the vegetable that we don’t normally eat. Every end of every carrot and onion gets stored in the freezer until broth-making day. The hard garlic stalks, the leek, carrot and celeriac tops, they all get popped in the freezer during meal prep to later be put in the broth concoction. You could chop up eating-quality vegetables for your broth, but I find that by saving the veggie scraps instead of composting them, I have plenty of veg for the broth.
Only certain veggie scraps are broth-approved in my kitchen, such as all alliums, of course carrots, celery, etc. I do not, for example, add tomatoes, eggplants or brassicas (these impart a bitter flavor). Instead, those veggie scraps move on to the chicken scrap bowl, the worm bin, or the compost bin. Yes, I do have the most highly-sorted food waste system imaginable!
Next, bones. It is possible to purchase bones for broth making, but again, we use the byproduct of a meal, instead. To be sure, one day, I’ll be raising our meat birds, but for now, I periodically buy a whole organic free range chicken from the store, or a local farmer. I serve the whole bird for a dinner (keep the bones!) The next day, I take the remaining meat off the bones to put to use in another meal, then the chicken carcass goes in the stock pot.
Put the carcass in the pot and dump the frozen vegetable scraps in. Some say that adding a dash of apple cider vinegar helps draw out the minerals in the bones, your choice. You can add herbs if you like. I often have frozen parsley stems already in there. I prefer to add salt and my herbs of choice later, when I serve the broth, so that I can cater the flavor to the use.
Next, top it all with filtered water. The liquid will cook down some, so you want a generous amount of water in there; I fill my entire stock pot to the top. Bring the pot to a boil, then turn it down to a steady simmer. Keep it going as long as you can – the longer the better for you. I find that it is easiest to start this cooking process in the morning and simmer the pot all day. (This is a really, really good smelling day!) Then I turn the boiling pot off when I go to bed, and it is cooled by morning. At this point, I strain it into containers for freezing. For the astute reader, I’ll concede that there is some cost to running my gas burner on low for this length of time, but the cost is marginal.
It’s a satisfying feeling, serving this bone broth to my family. Its uses are numerous, it’s extremely nutritious, and doesn’t add a dime to our grocery budget.
Stay warm out there!