Bone Broths: Low-Cost, High-Quality Nutrition

| 11/18/2015 9:29:00 AM

Author's Note: I'll be using the terms broth and stock interchangeably throughout this article. Broths are typically made from meats, stocks from bones, but in current times the terminology "bone broths" has blurred the distinction between the two.

I’ve always cooked a lot and have bought a lot of chicken and beef stock, bouillon or boxed broths over the years. Buying exclusively organic and free range stocks can be expensive. Also, to me prepared broths taste watered-down. They can also have too much salt and added “natural flavorings” which usually end up loaded with free glutemates. And then there’s the issue of the containers to recycle.

Jars of chicken stock, ready for the freezer
A couple of years ago I started making my own bone broths/stock and while they beat store-bought versions hands down, they were not very economical. For instance, to make chicken stock, I would buy a couple of packages of chicken backs and another of chicken feet at WholeFoods—a store not known for the most reasonable prices. And the backs and feet are hard to come by, hit or miss at WholeFoods. Sometimes I can find the chicken parts at Asian markets, for a better price, but always feel uncomfortable with the sources of the poultry: Where did they come from? What were they fed? How were they treated? For beef stock, I’d end up at shopping at Sprouts or my regular grocer, as their beef bones are only $2-$3 a pound, compared to WholeFoods at $6 a pound. The butcher will also usually cut the bones into smaller pieces for free.

Then one day I got the idea that if I started saving ALL the bones from the meals that we eat, I wouldn’t need to buy much — if any at all — from a grocer when it came time to make stock. I started keeping two large plastic bags in the freezer for bones. One is marked poultry, where I store duck, chicken and turkey bones. The other is marked meat, where I store beef, lamb and pork bones. I never buy boneless/skinless anything, so the bones add up fairly quickly. Since I usually trim the meat off bones before serving a meal and knowing the amount of time these bones are going to be boiling anyway, I don't feel squeamish about saving and using the leftover bones from meals.

Ingredients for making beef bone broth
Putting together the ingredients in the stock pot is a breeze. I just throw in chunks of onions, carrots, celery with their leaves, garlic, add some vinegar (to leach minerals from the bones), toss the bones on top and then fill with enough filtered water to cover everything by an inch or so. Once the water boils I drop it to a simmer and find the “sweet spot” on the burner knob that will keep the water simmering but not boiling. I will cook poultry stock for 24 hours or more. Beef stock gets 48 hours or more. During the last hour or so, I throw in the parsley.

When the stock is done, I turn off the heat and let it cool for about half an hour. Then, using a slotted spoon, I remove as much of the vegetables, bones and meat as possible, placing them in a strainer over a large bowl (or a bowl with a steamer rack in the bottom). The bones will look weathered and chicken bones will be soft enough to break apart by finger.

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