Ever suffered from chronic tendinitis? Weak bones, nails, hair, connective tissues? Gut issues? Peptic ulcers? Cellulite? Collagen loss? IBS? I may have the solution for you to all of the above problems, and most importantly, for virtually no money and in a form that conserves resources, prevents landfills from landfilling, and makes you feel like a super-provider for your loved ones.
A couple of weeks ago I picked up some big beef bones at the farmer’s market. They were labeled “dog bones” and were two bucks a piece, and after asking the farmer if there was any reason they wouldn’t be fine for humans, too (“can’t imagine why not”), I bought three and threw them in the freezer when I got home.
So I pulled two of the bones out of the freezer this week, put them in a stockpot, covered them with water, put a lid on, and turned the heat on medium low. I turned it down to just a slow simmer after a while, and for the next 30+ hours I peered in the pot occasionally to see how it was progressing.
Why do this? It’s not simply about making my own soup stock (free of added lab-synthesized flavors, MSG, hydrolyzed proteins, and other questionable and toxic ingredients) – though that is a factor, since I love soup. It’s waaaay more about the amazing stuff I’m simmering out of the bones and then putting into ME. Just about everything that these bones are composed of can be drawn out and thus capitalized on.
That means you can give away your glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate supplements, extracted through murky means. You can stop throwing money away on expensive face and booty creams that don’t seem to do anything at all to fabricate smoother skin. You can stop popping antacids or avoiding foods that are healthy but seem to be hard on your stomach.
Used for centuries as a way to make it through times of scarce protein, the components of gelatin in bone broth actually helps your body synthesize protein:
Early in this century researchers showed that gelatin increases the utilization of the protein in wheat, oats, and barley, though not of corn; that the digestibility of beans is vastly improved with the addition of gelatin; and that gelatin helps the digestion of meat protein. The last appears to confirm the subjective reports of many people who say that meats found in soups and pot roasts–cooked with bones for a long time in a liquid to which a touch of vinegar has been added–are easier to digest than quickly cooked steaks and chops, and why gelatin-rich gravies are at the heart of many culinary traditions. - “Why Broth is Beautiful”
The gelatin in bone broth can also be useful in healing leaky-gut syndrome, which is often a byproduct of celiac disease or lesser levels of gluten or general grain sensitivity and is frequently found in those suffering from disorders like autism and Asperger’s. It appears that eating gelatin-rich broth, which is easily made from animals that are free-ranging (and not those found in battery/industrial farming) renders most of the more difficult to digest foods far more digestible. This means not only will you not suffer from indigestion, you’ll also find that you have to eat less food because you’re obtaining more nutrition from what you eat (remember that particularly when you decide against buying your kids or your pets more expensive food – you can eat less of higher quality food because your body gets far more out of it – PLUS, it will make them poop smaller because there will be less that their bodies can’t use).
Collagen-rich bones, especially ones like knuckles, are great for restoring your own collagen, meaning that this may be one of your best shots at reversing aging – unlike that shot of creepy botulinum toxin, i.e. Botox.
There are more efficient ways to do it than I did on my electric stovetop, like crockpots, plug-in roasters, convection stovetops, campfire coals, on and on, but use what is most convenient for you.
After adding a little salt I dipped bread in that broth and wow. Sooo goooood. Then I added a couple of cups of it to the chili I was cooking, and it added tons of meaty flavor. Later I just straight up had a cup of it with lunch, then another one with dinner.
Beyond its nutritional brilliance, one of the best aspects of bone broth is that it’s made with animal products that are often thrown away. If you’re a vegan because you don’t like the idea of an animal dying to feed you or because it expands your carbon footprint, then you should capitalize on the benefits of bone broth. In other words, examine your ideals and acknowledge the true reasons you’re a vegan. If it’s for the above reasons, try making broth with parts that ordinarily go to waste. Then you’re doing something even better for the planet than avoiding factory-farmed meat – you’re exploiting the nutrition within what would otherwise wind up in a landfill, and there’s little more conservationist than that. You’re not only reducing your other food consumption but also reducing waste.
Remember also that the amino acids in gelatin, like all amino acids, can only be properly utilized when the diet contains sufficient fat-soluble activators–vitamins A and D–found exclusively in animal fats. So don’t hesitate to put cream in your broth-based soups and sauces, and include other sources of vitamins A and D in your diet, such as butter, egg yolks and cod liver oil. – “Why Broth is Beautiful”
There are so many things you can make broth with that will pass on massive amounts of necessary amino acids, sulfates, minerals like calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and silicon that are easily synthesized within the body, unlike those within most expensive supplements. I’m not easily grossed out, but I know that some of my broth constituent suggestions could be a little more difficult for some people to stomach—however, that is exactly why these parts should be consumed, because if modern appetites reject them because we’re no longer accustomed to these foods, then these nutrition explosions will tragically go to waste while you go to Burger King. So yep, you can make it with chicken feet and heads, lamb and cattle hooves, shrimp shells, fish carcasses, even pig skin. These aren’t things that tend to bother me much, but I know for some people they could take some getting used to.
Though I didn’t do it this time and it’s not necessary, try roasting the bones in the oven for awhile to improve the finished flavor. During the heating process a “Maillard reaction” occurs that fuses amino acids with sugars, resulting in a broth that will be tastier and darker.
There are a lot of blog posts and articles out there with manic bone broth obsessions for all of the issues I’ve listed and ten times those. Here are just a few if you’d like to learn more about it before you dive in. Saveur, a magazine I fall more in love with every month, has a great short piece on bones called “Bone Gatherer“. Cheeseslave even did a bone broth challenge, and has a list of links to broth-based recipes, and Melissa, the “Expert Cellulite Investigator” is curing her fluoride-caused cystic acne and (obviously) her cellulite with it. The Weston A. Price Foundation has a couple of articles about how “Broth is Beautiful” here and here. The latter article goes more into depth about the actual contents of bone broth and why they do what they do.
Of course, one of the things that most appeals to me about bone broth is its simplicity in preparation. If it’s too complex, most people, including me, aren’t likely to bother with it. But this stuff is easier than pie, even though you should feel free to complicate it to suit your tastes and what you have currently taking up space in your fridge.
Here is the most basic recipe, and is exactly what I did.
- Water (enough to cover dem bones)
- A splash of apple-cider vinegar
- A big lidded pot to put it in
Heat it up slowly, bringing it to a slow, low simmer, never allowing it to boil. Chicken bones require less time than beef, twenty-four or far less as opposed to twice that, if you want to allow the time, but you can do anywhere from four to seventy-two hours to forever, apparently. In China it’s common for “perpetual broth” to be in restaurant and home kitchens. Solids are removed and buried in the garden every week or two and new stuff is added while the stuff simmers ever onward. If you feel like adding veggies for extra flavor near the end of cooking, do so. The apple-cider vinegar theoretically helps draw the minerals out of the bones, but I’m still looking around for more evidence of this. Can’t hurt, though. Some people say to skim off the scum that rises to the top off because it affects the flavor or has potential toxins, but I didn’t find it to be a problem beyond simple aesthetics and the toxin idea has been mostly dismissed. I also don’t take the fat off after it cools, either, as some recipes prefer. To make storing and using it simpler, try freezing it in your ice cube trays and storing the cubes in freezer bags to use in more measured amounts as you like.
Then go crazy with it. Put it in everything, the baby bottle, the dog food, the rice, the quinoa, the chili, the soup, the health shakes. And be sure to let me know what you think of it.