“The toe bone's connected to the foot bone
The foot bone's connected to the ankle bone
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The ankle bone's connects to the leg bone
Now shake dem skeleton bones” ~ Dem Dry Bones
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A month or so ago, a Saturday after a terribly long week, my mom sent a text “I've got a big batch of stew on the stove-top, can you come for dinner?”
We almost didn't go; we were worn out, the day cold and dreary, my husband had started a fire. I'd stacked my favorite snuggling blankets by the sofa. Then we were late because we'd taken a little nap beforehand and woke to realize we were supposed to be there when? “Now”
“Let me give her a call.”
She served a rich, brothy vegetable beef soup ladled from a cast-iron pot on the stovetop. Big hunks of stew meat simmered in bone broth and stewed tomatoes, veggies, and side of piping hot buttery garlic bread for dipping. I could have drunk the broth straight from the bowl, as though it were hot tea. I thought, at the time, it was the best thing I'd ever eaten. In fact,
I still do
We sipped on homemade wild cherry wine, quite possibly my favorite out of all the kinds my father has a made over the years. The cherries from the same farmer who supplies him with all the horse manure he could possibly need for their garden. (I suspect transport is a bit smelly, but that's a story for another day)
She offered leftovers, which I regretted not taking her up on when I wanted to do it all over again the next day
“What ‘cha doin' today, Grandma?”
“I'm making bone broth.”
“Huh? Is it like a smoofie?”
“Not so much Sweetie. I fill my great big pot with lots and lots of bones, the kinds Harry & Sally like to chew on, remember? Then I let them cook them for three whole days.”
“Ewww, Grandma, those are gross.”
“Getting them all in there? That's a boy job. Do you remember the funny skeleton song we used to sing?”
I've known for a while how to make bone broth. It's been good; it's been fine. I thought about writing about it a couple of years ago and am now glad I didn't, because my mother's?
Hers is far better.
It happened that, the same night we were eating her stew, I had a freezer full of beef bones and hooves I'd been collecting from our favorite local meat lockers and the best supplier of raw dog food. She pointed me in the direction of her method (although she rarely cooks from a recipe). Now it's “my” -ish bone broth, with my accompanied by a nod in the direction of a certain kitchen ten minutes to the north
from which many good things come
I image there are as many bone broth recipes as there are beef stews for which it's used. Most are simply a variation of another version, and this is by far the best.
To make bone broth you really only need a couple of things: bones and water.
Everything else is considered helpful (adding something acidic to help draw the minerals out of the bones), or tasty (adding onions and other aromatics to the brew).
Begin with a wide variety of bones
Especially those that are high in collagen-like marrow, knuckles, necks, oxtails, and hooves. They’ll make the most gelatinous stock you can imagine. You're going for something with the texture of meaty jello; let it be your sign that all is well
(Hooves, feet, and heads are the most gelatinous parts of the animal. I asked our butcher to the hooves into smaller pieces for me to expose more surface area)
Food for thought when sourcing your bones: To make a broth filled with the most nutrients, seek out bones from healthy, pasture-raised cows. Also, at least half (if not more) of your mix should be non-marrow bones (knuckles, necks, oxtails, and hooves)
Roast the meaty bones ahead of time + Soak the others in vinegar
Always roast the meaty bones before putting them into your pot. Making sure they're well-browned and caramelized on both sides = better flavor.
Make sure to soak the non-meaty bones in vinegar while the others are roasting. (This helps extract calcium and other all-important minerals from them)
Use the biggest pot you can find
Use the biggest and heaviest stockpot you have (or can borrow from a friend). The marrow bones you're using? They can be pretty big.
Fill it with your roasted (and vinegar-soaked) bones and hooves, plus your veggies and aromatics. Add just enough cold water to cover them. Ideally, you'd like a bone to water ratio where there aren't too many floating bones. (If you add too much the broth will taste watered down). Bring to a very gentle boil, lower the heat to your stove's lowest point, so it's barely simmering, and cover
I use our beer-making brewer's pot
The water should be cold when added to the pot because slow heating will bring out more of the flavor
How long should it simmer?
How much time do you have? My mom simmers hers for three days, and our latest batch went five. Some people like to turn their stoves off at night and then turn them back on in the morning, but we don't worry too much about it. Our pots simply simmer away.
A note, if you're worried about letting it go overnight. I'd caution against putting your hot pot of broth directly into the fridge. Instead, turn off the burner and keep the lid on the pot. It will still be at a decent temp in the morning.
Skim the scum
“Always Skim” is the first commandment of good cooks ~ Sally Fallon
As it simmers, scum will rise to the surface. Carefully remove it with a spoon
“You will now have a pot of rather repulsive-looking brown liquid containing globs of gelatinous and fatty material. It doesn’t even smell particularly good. But don’t despair. After straining you will have a delicious and nourishing clear broth that forms the basis for many other recipes in this book” ~ Sally Fallon | Nourishing Traditions
The both should now be strained through cheesecloth. The fat can be removed after it's been strained and chilled. Whatever you do, don't throw it out. Animal fats are great for cooking because they won't break down at high temps like other cooking oils you might be using.
I've read in several places, bones that are still firm can be set aside to be used again in the next batch, although I haven't tried.
My parents can their stock, and I freeze ours. It will also keep for several days in the fridge. If you'd like, it can also be boiled down into a concentrate that can be reconstituted into a sauce by adding water
But wait .. there's more
Why in the world would one go to all of this trouble? Why is bone broth so good for us? And what about the stew? The recipe for the bone broth stew?
( .. to be continued .. )
ps: This is Part I in of a week-long series about bone broth. Part II features a recipe (of sorts) for my mom's bone broth stew, one of the most incredible things I've ever eaten. Part III highlights a few of the many benefits of this amazing superfood. Part IV offers resources if you’d like to know more
pps: You can read more about Sally Fallon's method of making bone broth at The Weston Price Foundation
(Skeleton Bones Video Credit – YouTube – Super Simple Songs – Kids Songs)
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~ Adapted from Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon
Beef Bone Broth
- about 4 pounds beef marrow and knuckle bones
- 1 calves foot, cut into pieces (optional)
- 3 pounds meaty rib or neck bones
- 4 or more quarts cold filtered water
- ½ cup vinegar
- 3 onions, coarsely chopped
- 3 carrots, coarsely chopped
- 3 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
- several sprigs of fresh thyme, tied together
- 1 tsp dried green peppercorns, crushed
- 1 bunch parsley
- Place the knuckle and marrow bones and optional calves foot in a very large pot with vinegar and cover with water.
- Let stand for one hour.
- Meanwhile, place the meaty bones in a roasting pan and brown at 350 degrees in the oven. When well browned, add to the pot along with the vegetables.
- Pour the fat out of the roasting pan, add cold water to the pan, set over a high flame and bring to a boil, stirring with a wooden spoon to loosen up coagulated juices.
- Add this liquid to the pot.
- Add additional water, if necessary, to cover the bones; but the liquid should come no higher than within one inch of the rim of the pot, as the volume expands slightly during cooking.
- Bring to a boil.
- A large amount of scum will come to the top, and it is important to remove this with a spoon.
- After you have skimmed, reduce heat and add the thyme and crushed peppercorns.
- Simmer stock for at least 12 and as long as 72 hours.
- Just before finishing, add the parsley and simmer another 10 minutes.
- You will now have a pot of rather repulsive-looking brown liquid containing globs of gelatinous and fatty material. (It doesn’t even smell particularly good. But don’t despair. After straining, you will have a delicious and nourishing clear broth)
- Remove bones with tongs or a slotted spoon. Strain the stock into a large bowl.
- Let cool in the refrigerator and remove the congealed fat that rises to the top.
- Transfer to smaller containers and to the freezer for long-term storage