Down To The Bones
There’s a reason why chicken soup has a legendary reputation. Not soup you start from a can or a carton… the kind that begins with an actual chicken - and specifically the bones. Bone broth from animals and fish with vertebrae is healing, energizing, and just possibly magical. Those cuts of meat and bits and ends of animal that, incidentally, are easy on the wallet, harbor culinary and therapeutic secrets which you deserve to know.
Why has bone broth all but disappeared from the American tradition? Bone broth takes time, though it needs little attention. And instead of thinking about how to use a whole farm-raised animal, we have been conditioned to embrace lean cuts of meat, neatly packaged and priced at a premium, quick to prepare but difficult to infuse with flavor.
And then we take supplements to replace the things that bones and good fats supply: Gelatin. Glucosamine and chondroitin. Calcium and magnesium. Sound familiar?
If you are looking to eat frugally, bone broth will help you stretch a few morsels of meat and a bag of produce into a mighty meal. Even if you are not concerned with cost, bone broth will get you kudos in the kitchen as you produce rich soups, stews, and sauces that will please even the pickiest eaters.
Where to begin? Good water, which for most of us means filtered tap water. Bones and bits of meat and fat from animals that have been considerately raised and fed by a farmer you know. You’ll need a little vinegar (more for bones from larger animals) to draw the calcium out of the bones. Throw in vegetables like garlic, onions, carrots, and celery. Heat gently and give it lots of time to simmer slowly. A slow cooker is very handy for this purpose, as chicken broth can take all day and beef broth is best given time overnight to extract all of the collagen, gelatin, and minerals.
Better cooks skim the surface occasionally, and strain the final product. Then into the refrigerator it goes. You know you’ve been successful when you chill the broth and it attains the consistency of Jell-o. Then use it or freeze it. Ice trays are ideal because you can then portion out the cubes for use in future dishes.
If you’re looking for more information and recipes, start with Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon Morell. But don’t be afraid to just experiment.
When you find a farmer or butcher who will sell you chicken feet and carcasses, beef knuckles and marrow bones, rejoice! Or buy cuts of meat and whole chickens so that you can use them to make a meal and then throw everything else in the broth pot – including the feet, gizzards, head, and neck if you have them. And know that you have reclaimed a tradition that is better than a flu shot.
Want to participate in a class? Register here for a two hour seminar at Atherton Market on January 25th. You’ll leave with 7 recipes, empowered to make bone broth at home.