Friday, November 21, 2014

The Hippie Wanna-Be Chronicles: Bone Broth

It's the weekend before Thanksgiving, otherwise known as "buy all the food ever" weekend. Everyone is picking out their birds, deciding on who's bringing what side dish, and finalizing drink and dessert offerings. The excitement is climbing - everyone is looking forward to food, family, and a mid-week day to just chill on the couch.

And me? What am I doing to prep for the big day? Oh I'm just cleanin' up some puke and wipin' noses. My little one, 2 years old, has been sick since SATURDAY. That's almost 7 days of nonstop sniffling, choking, sobbing, coughing, and gagging, combined with random fevers and fits of rage. When my little one gets a cold she gets a cold.

Funny, though, the rest of us are pretty much ok. 

How is it, I wonder, that my youngest can be horribly, terribly ill, but the rest of us are good?

Well for starters, she is younger and is building up her immunity. She is naturally going to be hit harder because she is a small, small person with only 2 years under her belt. She's what I like to call an "immunity lightweight."

But there's something else...something a bit more hippie going on here. 

You see, my other kid, the big one, who has a substantial 6 year lead over her younger sister, always, always gets sick. This kid never catches a break....instead she catches illnesses. She is constantly bringing home what other parents drop off at school and has never escaped a family cold or stomach flu. Ever. 

Except this time.

Now don't get me wrong, she got something. She was sleeping longer, draggin' butt earlier in the week, but after taking a day off to recuperate, she went back to school with no problems. She missed one day, compared to the 3-4 days she's normally down for the count.

The difference? 

Bone, Broth.

Now some of you probably know, I am huge on meat raised by farmers you know. I believe in voting with your dollars and food is probably the most important ballot out there. It's a horribly deceitful market in the US and we should care about it because food can save lives. Food can make you a better person. Food can make sick people well. It's a fact, people. 

When I realized my big girl was ill, I whipped up a huge green smoothie (they aren't disgusting jars of scum after all) and she chugged it down with a smile. Then I tossed some navy beans in a crock pot with some of the best stuff on earth - homemade broth.

I love perusing the meat menu at Wallace Farms. Each time I look, though, I see these chicken backs jumping out at me. They are so, so cheap. I needed to find a way to use them, so I started googling the crap out of them. 

Turns out chicken backs aren't good for anything other than - you guessed it - broth (also called stock, which confuses me, so I'll just keep calling it broth).

I found a couple great recipes online and sort of blended them together to work for me. I'm not going to lie to you and say this was a fast process. This was perhaps the longest cooking session I've ever had. But you know what else is long? Sleepless nights when the whole family is sick. Losing a weekend to broth-making was well worth it to me.

Lemmie show ya what I did.

Pick a bone. Hahaha I've got a bone to pick with but really. You can get beef bones (knuckle and marrow bones) or chicken bones. Obviously, the beef bones will result in beef broth, the chicken bones will result in chicken broth. All 3 types of bones have glorious, beautiful, luscious gelatin and minerals. You can read an awesome post about the benefits of drinking broth by checking out this post by Katie from Kitchen Stewardship. She links to a ton of resources explaining the immense nutritional value of bone broth. 

Bottom line, it's the shizz.

So I started my bone broth session by buying 3 packages of chicken backs. Three come in each package - more than enough. Be sure to buy your meat and/or bones from someone you know or from a local farm that can vouch not only for how the animals lived but how they were butchered. This makes a difference in both the quality of your broth and the quality of our agriculture system!

Next I filled two huge pots with water. I didn't use filtered water, or distilled water, or whatever. I used tap water, my well tap water, all full of iron and whatever else is down there. I didn't measure it out, either, I just filled them up 3/4 of the way full. 

I didn't saute/brown the backs beforehand because I hate dishes (we don't own a dishwasher....unless my husband's hands which case....yay! I own a dishwasher!). You can always saute everything, including the veggies in the next step, before adding it to the pot. I's broth, sooo....I didn't see the need....but whatever tugs your tag!

After splashing the slippery suckas gently placing the chicken backs in the pot I added some leftover onion tops, leftover carrot tops, scraps of garlic skin, and some roughly chopped/cracked garlic cloves. I didn't add celery because I hate the stuff, but that's another great vegetable to add to stock. Remember, these don't need to be the "pretty parts" of the veggie. Kitchen scraps destined for the compost or garbage work really, really well just the way they are. 

I brought it all up to a boil and then lowered the heat to a gentle simmer. I cooked the chicken in there like that for an hour - then I took the backs out, plucked the meat off of 'em, and stuck the bare bones back in the pots. 

I got a good batch of meat off my backs. You can call me the Bone Plucker. I froze the meat and used it later for tacos and soup. 

Then came the fun part. I let that stuff chill, on a low simmer, for 20 hours. That's twenty hours. I felt like a witch at her cauldron, checking throughout the day and skimming some of the foam off the top (it'll happen, that foam - it's not dangerous. It's foam.). **Side note, if you have a gas stove, be sure to put your exhaust fan on (lowest setting is fine). I did not do that, because ya know, I'm into gassing myself and my whole family,like a boss. The carbon monoxide detector went off at one point and we spent a good hour freezing our butts off as I aired the place out. Safety first, people! Learn from my mistakes!!

Once 20 hours was up, I strained the two pots into bowls. I was sad to see the bones go, but I knew I'd gotten some good stuff out of 'em. I dumped them and the veggies in the trash and got to work on the next phase of my bone broth adventure - storage.

Everywhere I went (you know....on Google and Pinterest...) people were saying it's best to let the broth sit in the fridge overnight and then skim the fat off in the morning. So I went ahead and poured the stuff into jars, left it in the fridge, and skimmed the fat off the next morning. I'm tellin ya, it didn't make that much of a difference and next time, I will totally skip this step. 

Now there was no way I could eat all this broth before it went bad. I ended up with 18 pints and 3 quarts of the stuff -  a truly incredible yield for $9.51 worth of chicken and as you can see, the broth was oh-so-golden and nutra-packed. Nomnomnom. But what to do with it all?

I decided I would take a line from The Brady Bunch and can it (*whine whine whine* "Can it, Cindy!"). Now, for those of you who don't know, which included me before this bone broth adventure, you need a special canner to can bone broth. Only acidic foods, like fruits and jams and stuff with vinegar, can be canned the old fashioned way with a big pot and some boiling water. Non-acidic foods, including broth, need to be canned with a pressure canner.

Luckily, I found one for sale by a sweet old lady at an autumn festival near my town. She sold it to me for $32 - and gave me a quick instruction run-down before I hauled it away. (Be careful and don't buy dangerous stuff from weirdos yaddah yaddha yaddah...I later downloaded the manual because I didn't really understand a thing she said. Gasket what?)

The first step is to reheat your broth. Awesome. I hauled the pots back out and emptied my jars. While the broth heats back up, you need to prep your jars by making sure they're clean and warm. I washed mine out and let them sit in a hot water bath. ***For a more in-depth post about the specifics of pressure canning, check this post out by Simply Canning).

Then I poured my hot broth into my hot jars and burned my hot hands. Carefully, and following my pressure canner's instructions, I stacked my jars, added water like I was supposed to, sealed the lid on the canner, and watched that pressure rise. 

I was such a freak about it. I checked it constantly. 

Ding! Fries are done!

I now have a shelf full of canned, golden broth and let me tell you, it's dang delicious. I made some crockpot soup with it mid-week, on the day my older kiddo stayed home, and we ate it for dinner.

I kid you not, the very next day, she was ten times better...well enough to go to school and the family reading night they hosted until 8PM. She woke up today with a smile and not a smidge of sickness in her eyes. 

Guess which little person didn't want to eat my soup...and is still sick as a dog? I rest my case.

Have you ever tried cooking your own broth? Would you try it? I promise, if I can do it, you can do it. Nature's medicine! Peace and love and waving my arms in the wind like a tree....thank you so much for reading :)

*Disclaimer: Wallace Farms has never given me a dime for my opinion or the repeated mentioning of their high-quality, responsibly raised and butchered meats. This is not a sponsored post! They really are that good - check them out!!


  1. I have been meaning ot do this forever and NEED some now that my 2 year old woke up with croup. How long will this take start to finish? Pinning! Thanks!

    1. It took me an entire weekend +, from Saturday morning to Monday night. If you skip the step where you let it sit in jars and cool overnight, you could save yourself an entire day.....especially since you need to wash and heat the jars to can everything...and then heat up the broth again! Skimming the fat ain't worth it!

      You can also let it simmer for less time - I did 20 hours of simmer time after I plucked the meat off the bones. More time = more mineral/gelatin leech from the bones, but less time will grab good nutrients, too.

      GOOD LUCK!!! Let me know how it goes!!

  2. I've never made my own broth but heard it's pretty easy and a great way to use left over chicken parts. I just don't usually buy a whole chicken often enough to do this, lol. :) Hope your little kiddo feels better in time for Thanksgiving!! If anything, steal food from others :) Have a great one Jennifer! -Iva

    1. HAHA Thanks Iva, my dear! I hope you have an awesome Thanksgiving, too!!! NOM NOM NOM

  3. I have never tried this, but I would. Looks and sounds tasty.