I know I’ve been talking about bone broth for a long time now, so finally – here are the instructions (and a video)!

What is Bone Broth, and Why Do I Want to Make It?

You know what broth is, right? The flavourful liquid in soups that, unfortunately, is usually made with water and fake flavour cubes?

Well back in the olden days, people made their own broth and that was done by boiling meat and bones and other random animal parts in order to extract the nutrients into the water and flavour it. Turns out that not only does it taste good, it’s incredibly healing (that’s right – chicken soup really does cure colds).

The broth contains easily absorbable forms of minerals we need – calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulfer and numerous trace minerals. Not only that, but it also contains chondroitin sulphates and glucosamine from the tendons and cartilage, which help with joint pain and arthritis. It also contains a substance called gelatin which has its own magical healing properties.

Gelatin in particular is fantastic for healing the digestive system, and if you have acne troubles, you more than likely have got some digestive stuff going on that could use some help. So bone broth is your friend. 

From the WAPF website:

The French were the leaders in gelatin research, which continued up to the 1950s. Gelatin was found to be useful in the treatment of a long list of diseases including peptic ulcers, tuberculosis, diabetes, muscle diseases, infectious diseases, jaundice and cancer. Babies had fewer digestive problems when gelatin was added to their milk. The American researcher Francis Pottenger pointed out that as gelatin is a hydrophilic colloid, which means that it attracts and holds liquids, it facilitates digestion by attracting digestive juices to food in the gut. Even the epicures recognized that broth-based soup did more than please the taste buds. “Soup is a healthy, light, nourishing food” said Brillant-Savarin, “good for all of humanity; it pleases the stomach, stimulates the appetite and prepares the digestion.”

My Video on How to Make Bone Broth

Written Instructions:

  1. Gather bones together from any animal you wish. You can get these from the meat you eat (save them in a bag in the freezer, till you have enough), the butcher, or a farmer. Grass fed and/or organic is preferred, and they can be raw, or cooked. Some people say roasted give the broth more flavour, so they like to put their raw bones in the oven for a half hour or so before hand. You can use clean bones, but some with a bit of meat on it is best, and so are joint bones, and other bits of animal that have lots of gelatin in them – like chicken, beef, or pig feet.
  2. Place in large stock pot or slow cooker, such as a Hamilton Beach one (because they’re supposedly lead free). Pour water into it until it almost covers the bones. At this point, you can add veggie scraps for your more flavour if you wish, such as onions, leeks, celery. Try to avoid carrots or beets or sugary vegetables as it gives it a weird flavour. I’m usually too lazy to do this, and prefer to just flavour it afterwards.
  3. Add a tablespoon of acidic medium – I usually use apple cider vinegar, but any vinegar will do, or fresh lemon juice. This helps to break down and draw the nutrients out of the bones.
  4. Let soak in the cold water for a half hour to an hour.
  5. If it’s a slow cooker, turn it on to low, put the lid on and let er go. If you’re doing it on the stove in your stockpot, bring it almost to a boil and then turn it down to low so that it isn’t boiling, just simmering a lightly as possible. You don’t want to boil it if you can help it. Lid on or lid off, doesn’t matter… lid off will result in a very concentrated broth which is good if you are short on space. Lid on will retain the water. I prefer lid on.
  6. For chicken or small bones, you can go anywhere from 3 to 4 hours to 24 hours (not longer). Beef or larger bones, you can go from 3 or 4 up to three days! The longer you go, the more minerals get leached from the bones. On the other hand, there is some controversy over whether the longer cooking time breaks down the gelatin, which I’ll talk about below.
  7. After it’s done, strain the whole concoction with a strainer and a pot, or however you want to work that. At that point, you can throw the bones and scraps away if you wish, and store the broth (put it in airtight containers in the fridge, or freezer it for later. Will stay good for a week or so in the fridge). HOWEVER, I suggest that instead of just throwing everything away that you pick off all the meat and soft tissue that is now easily falling off the bones. You can use that stuff!! Once it’s cooled down, pick off the meat and soft tissue and put it aside for eating or adding to soup. You can also break the crumbling bones and eat the bone marrow too (VERY NUTRITIOUS!)
  8. An alternative to straining the whole thing, which can be a little tricky and annoying, is get a slotted spoon and scoop out the bones and meat into a big bowl. When it’s cooled, pick off the meat and throw the meat back into the broth and immediately make a soup with it. Add vegetables, seasoning, and whatever else you want and cook a while longer. Throw the bones away, or you can even grind them up in a blender, and save that.  Add tablespoons of the grinded bones to soups or ground beef or your garden for extra nutrition.
  9. Uses for bone broth: anything. Use it for soup, drink it like a tea (I love this), use it in place of any cooking water (like in rice, for example) – add it to anything you can think of for extra flavour and nutrition!

The Gelling Up Controversy

So, it’s kind of like an unspoken goal in bone broth making circles that you want your broth to turn to gel when it cools. It’s like the sign of a good broth, because it shows the presence of all the gelatin.

Well, I have a secret to confess – I can’t seem to get my bone broth to gel!!!

Maybe if there’s any bone broth vets out there, you can give me some tips. Why is it not gelling? From what I can tell, it seems like one of these mysterious things that half of the people get perfect gel every time without even thinking about it, and other people can never do it. And SOME people get gel half the time and the other time none even though they did the exact same thing with the exact same bones!!

The first couple of times I ever made bone broth, which was last summer, it gelled. Ever since then, never. NEVER GELLED! Whyyyyy.

I have some theories:

  1. Thinking about it too much somehow jinxes you
  2. Using too much water dilutes the gel. So it’s not so much that there isn’t gelatin, just that it’s diluted so it doesn’t get all jelly like.
  3. Boiling it too much breaks down the gelatin
  4. You’re not using enough joint bones and gelatin rich parts
  5. It’s cooked too long and the gelatin has broken down

I feel like I’m doing numbers 2 – 4 right (at least nothing different than the first times I tried it). The 4th possibility may be my suspect one… the first times I made bone broth when it did gel, I only cooked it for 3 or 4 hours. Every time since, I’ve cooked them a lot longer. And this goes with what I have heard is that a shorter cooking time is better for gelatin, and a longer cooking time is better for minerals.

So maybe the best way to do this whole thing is cook it for 3 or 4 hours, strain it, add more water, and then cook the bones for another 20 or however many hours. That way you get the best of both worlds. I’m going to have to keep doing some experimenting.

Either Way, I Gave up Caring About Gel

I really wanted it to gel, but when I couldn’t get the gel, I gave up caring too much. Whatever you made in that stock or crockpot is dang good for you, so even if it’s not perfect – drink up!

Have you made bone broth yet? If so, can you get it to gel? What are your gelling conspiracy theories? 

photo by Johnny Stiletto