Bone Broth Guide (Recipe)
This is the Farmhouse version (read "not gourmet or overly particular") of a bone broth "recipe". More a set of guidelines, really. There are a lot of words to explain the goals and give some suggestions to chart your course, but in the end it is a very simple process, customizable to whatever time and supplies you have on hand. Enjoy the process and the product!
Any time of year is a good time for making and consuming bone broth - it is so tasty and nutritious! But this time of year especially, when we're just coming out of a long winter season and the fresh new Spring crops aren't yet available, I feel the need to fortify my body with extra nutrients. Perhaps it's a bit like a grumpy bear, emerging hungry from a long hibernation :)
Not sure how to make bone broth? It can be as easy as putting the bones in a pot (frozen is fine), covering them with water, and letting them simmer all day or all night. You're going to get a thick, collagen-filled gelatin, packed with vitamins, minerals, amino acids, that stands up on a spoon and adds a heap of nutrition to your day.
I like to add a handful of salt and a couple tablespoons of cider vinegar to each big pot. You can always leave the salt out completely and salt the broth when you use it. The vinegar helps pull more minerals from the bones but is not required to make a great product.
When it's done cooking, strain it through a colander into glass jars and store the broth in the fridge. Alternatively, you can freeze it in any freezer safe container. I like to freeze it in quart deli containers so when I'm making soup I can pop it out of the container, still frozen, right into the pot. Quart zip top bags are a great option because they store flat and don't take up as much freezer space. I usually make some of each to have on hand.
What to do with the bits you've strained out? If you've followed the long cooking instruction below, there's not much left in them. They can be composted or disposed of however you normally dispose of food waste. If you have nice meaty bones and want to use the meat, I suggest removing the meat from the bones after a few hours of cooking time, at which time it will be tender and delicious. Then continue with simmering the bones for the long cook time.
Once it cools completely in the refrigerator, it should transform into a thick, jello-like, scoop-able product. You want some degree of gelatinous texture, though it doesn't have to be as completely gelled as in the photo below. If it's completely liquid, it either didn't cook long enough or you didn't use enough bones to the amount of water. It will still have good nutrients in it so you can use it anyway - you've just gained data for the next time around.
Any fat that rises to the surface will be easy to remove once it's cool, if you so desire. Pro Tip: I suggest leaving the fat on top of the jar until ready to use the broth. It seals the broth, allowing it to remain good in the fridge longer. Also, don't be afraid of this fat! This is grassfed tallow (or pastured lard if using pork bones)! Animal fats have received a bad rap over the last 50 years, but the tide is turning on this old dietary advice. When making a cup of broth to drink, I always stir in a teaspoon of the fat. It is also great for cooking vegetables, browning meat to begin a beef stew, or for high-heat frying of potatoes, bread, etc.
I like to make the broth simple and salted, as stated above. It has a mellow, versatile flavor. For a richer flavor, roast the bones in the oven before covering with water and simmering. Also, you can add vegetables, vegetables scraps, or herbs of your choice along with the bones. Save those carrot peels and onion ends to throw into the pot - you're going to strain them out so it doesn't matter what they look like. Each one changes the flavor profile - use what you love to eat!
As far as cooking time, the longer the better. You can make a faster broth and it will be great, but you'll get more nutrients the longer you cook. My goal is usually at least 8 hours. On the stovetop I'm most comfortable starting it first thing in the morning and letting it simmer all day, so I can check on it occasionally and add water or adjust the heat if needed. To make the most of your day, put the pot of ingredients together the night before and keep it in the refrigerator. Then you can place it right on the stove while the coffee is brewing. If I'm using a slow cooker, I'll let it simmer on low for 12-36 hours. With a lid on the slow cooker, the liquid rarely reduces much but check it every 8 hours or so anyway. For the instant pot, I choose the longest setting allowed and then let it release pressure on it's own - on mine that's 4 hours of cook time.
What about quantities? There is no one right answer. With a really long cooking time, you can use fewer bones to get a nicely gelled product. If you want to speed it up, use more bones. In general, I like my pot to be half filled with bones. If you don't have a pot big enough to accommodate a whole bag of bones, it is fine to refreeze the portion you didn't use (assuming you thawed them safely in the first place).
Most importantly - do what works for you! If following one of the "rules" is going to prevent you from making your own nutrient dense food, toss that rule right out the kitchen window. Maybe it will sprout for use later.