Now that the weather has really become colder and windier, bone broths should begin again to make an appearance on our dinner tables (and lunch and breakfast too!).

Bone broth or stock forms a central part of traditional cuisines all over the world. Besides adding rich flavor, it brings a host of minerals and vitamins into the dishes cooked with it. Long-cooked bone stock also has gelatin and collagen in it which strengthen the bones, hair and nails and greatly aid digestion while soothing the digestive tract.

The same property by which gelatin attracts water to form desserts, like Jello, allows it to attract digestive juices to the surface of food particles.One of my teachers referred to gelatin as a major component of the “topsoil” of the digestive tract. This topsoil provides excellent conditions for the growth and maintenance of beneficial bacteria in your gut. Bone broth can also ease joint pain and soothe inflammation. 

It soothes windy vata dosha and pacifies pitta hunger without burdening kapha. It really is the perfect food for fall (and winter)!

 

Stock can form the base for a soup, but when reduced, it can also be used as the base for a rich and nutritious sauce, as in much of classical French cooking. You can even cook your grains using stock instead of water.

Look for “knuckle” bones at your butcher shop. These are usually hip joints and have lots of collagen and gelatin that will cook down into your stock. It is also pretty important to use bones from organic, or at least grass-fed/free range animals for bone stock. You can use just about any animal bones for making stock. My favorites are goat, lamb, beef and chicken, but duck, pork and turkey work great too. Always preserves the turkey or chicken bones after roasting a whole bird!. Each animal has slightly different qualities, so you’ll want to keep that in mind so that you can get the best results possible.

Depending upon the season and on the type of bones you are using, you can cook your bone stock for as short as 4-6 hours or as long as 36 hours. Smaller, more delicate bones need much less time to release their nutrients into the stock. In the fall and winter, roasting the bones before simmering them and then cooking them for upwards of 12 hours adds an extra warming quality to the stock, helping us to stay warmer through the cold weather.

For example, fish and chicken bones are delicate and their flavor will deteriorate if they are over-cooked. Chicken bones should not be cooked for more than 4-5 hours and fish bones of oily fish should not simmer longer then 1 hour. Beef bones will take 8 hours or more to release their full flavor and nutrient punch. In the fall and winter, roasted beef bones could cook for 24 hours or much more. You might also be surprised at just how much nutrition the bones will release. Try cooking a second (or even third) batch of stock using the same bones over again.

To enhance the healing and nourishing benefits of your bone broth, you can add medicinal and digestive supporting herbs to your pot. In the autumn, one great addition is astragalus, a traditional Chinese medicinal herb which supports lung immunity. You can find astragalus online (I like Mayway Herbs in Oakland, CA). You could also add black pepper, mustard seeds, fenugreek, sage, rosemary, basil, tarragon, bay leaf or thyme an hour or 2 before the end of cooking to support digestion and help maintain body temperature as the weather gets colder.

You will need a large, heavy bottomed stock pot or a crock pot so that the broth can cook for many hours without getting burned.

Nourishing Bone Broth

gelatinIngredients:

2.5-4 lbs bones

12-16 c Water

few pinches Salt

1/8 c vinegar or rice wine

Optional additions:

herbs–augment digestion and immunity

chicken feet–excellent source of collagen for joint healing and skin health

Chop the bones according to their cooking time—large pieces for long cooking times and small pieces for quick cooking. If you buy knuckle bones at the butcher, you can ask them to do this for you.

Optional: If you a more hearty stock, roast the bones in a hot oven or sauté in a cast iron pan before transferring to them a stockpot. Deglaze the roasting dish or frying pan by adding water or wine to the pan and add this liquid to the stockpot. This will result in a darker stock. If you deglaze with wine, you can skip the addition of vinegar.

Place bones, vinegar and salt in pot with water. Allow the pot to sit for about an hour. The addition of the vinegar helps to draw the minerals out of the bones and into solution.

Bring the water to a boil and then turn the heat to the lowest setting and allow stock to simmer.

stockpotIn the first hour or so of cooking, a foamy gunk will rise to the surface. Lift this off the stock with a spoon. You can also buy a stock skimmer if you plan on making stock often (and you should!). Once you have removed this gunk, you can transfer the stock to a crock pot if you would like to. This works especially well if you plan to be away from home or if you don’t have a large stock-pot.

Add vegetables or delicate herbs about one hour before the end of cooking. After allowing the stock to cool for 45 minutes or so, strain out all solids, and transfer to glass jars with airtight lids. The stock can be kept in refrigerator for up to 4 or 5 days or in freezer for up to 2 months.

If it was prepared properly, the stock should gel up once it has been in the refrigerator for a few hours.

jarIf you decide to freeze the stock, you should choose jars that don’t taper at all in the neck—the mouth should be as wide as the sides of the jar. Only fill the jar to about an inch from the top. This will prevent the jar cracking when the frozen stock expands a bit.

You can also create nutrient-packed bouillon cubes. Once the bones and herbs have been strained out, bring the stock to a boil and then reduce to a strong simmer until the volume is reduced to ¼ the original volume. Transfer the stock to a glass or metal baking pan or pie pan and refrigerate until the gelatin hardens. Slice the gelatinized stock into cubes and store in the freezer in a glass container.

 

 

 

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