Bone broth. I started seeing those two words all over the web recently. I wondered, what’s the big deal with bone broth? I always made my own chicken or veggie stock so I wondered, ‘What is the difference? Isn’t all broth the same? Just boil some meat and bones and you got broth/stock, right?”
Well, I had to learn the difference fast since the GAPS diet protocol that I started my kids on hinged on drinking bone broth, multiple times a day, every day, for gut healing. For a person (me) who didn’t eat meat for years, preparing bone broth every day was a challenge, mentally and physically, not to mention financially since the bones had to be from grass fed AND finished cow and they can cost up to $7 per lb. Try finding grass fed bones from the local supermarkets. They are not available in mine. Even Whole Foods don’t carry it often and when they do, they are very expensive. Thank goodness my farmers market has multiple ranchers who sell bones for my needs now.
Back to why bone broth is healthy…
Health benefits of bone broth
It turns out, bone broth is a tad different from making stock. Bone broth specifically uses just the bones, without meat. Duh. Hence, the term bone broth. And its health benefits are numerous but for starters, check out one of my favorite sites The Paleo Mom who explains that bone broth is very nutritious because it contains two very important amino acids for healing: glycine and proline. I knew about these two important amino acids but I didn’t know bone broth was beneficial because of them.
“…glycine is required for synthesis of DNA, RNA and many proteins in the body. As such, it plays extensive roles in digestive health, proper functioning of the nervous system and in wound healing. Glycine aids digestion by helping to regulate the synthesis and of bile salts and secretion of gastric acid. It is involved in detoxification and is required for production of glutathione, an important antioxidant. Glycine helps regulate blood sugar levels by controlling gluconeogenesis (the manufacture of glucose from proteins in the liver). Glycine also enhances muscle repair/growth by increasing levels of creatine and regulating Human Growth Hormone secretion from the pituitary gland. This wonderful amino acid is also critical for healthy functioning of the central nervous system. In the brain, it inhibits excitatory neurotransmitters, thus producing a calming effect. Glycine is also converted into the neurotransmitter serine, which promotes mental alertness, improves memory, boosts mood, and reduces stress.
Proline has an additional role in reversing atherosclerotic deposits. It enables the blood vessel walls to release cholesterol buildups into your blood stream, decreasing the size of potential blockages in your heart and the surrounding blood vessels. Proline also helps your body break down proteins for use in creating new, healthy muscle cells.”
In addition, bones are rich in minerals like calcium, magnesium and phosphorus – all of which we need for our own bone health. Plus, adding joints with cartilage to the broth adds collagen, which is also rich in Glycine and Proline but it has Chondroitin Sulfate and Hyaluronic Acid that are beneficial for joint and skin health.
No wonder it’s great for healing the gut lining! Now, that makes sense, right?
Then, let’s make some broth!
How to make Bone Broth
As mentioned above, when buying beef bones make sure to buy fresh grass fed AND finished bones from your reputable butcher or a rancher. I buy mine from the farmers market right now but I am planning on stocking them for the winter. Many people buy bones online but I couldn’t find available bones in the winter from any of the trusted sources.
If you want to use chicken bones, make sure they are from pastured and free roaming chickens that eat a variety of food. Grain fed chickens from CAFO is NOT an option when making broth. Remember “Organic” chickens are NOT pastured. They are probably caged chicken that were fed organic grains. You want pastured chicken that roamed the farm that ate worms and grains. Chickens are not herbivores. They are omnivores. The bottom line is that you want to buy the freshest and naturally raised animal bones and not bones from CAFO animals.
Also, when you buy long (shank) beef bones, ask the farmer or butcher to cut them down long, in the middle of the shank, to expose the marrow. If the bones are already packaged, like mine are, you can still get to the marrow inside but it takes longer.
There are many methods to making broth. You can modify the method to any way you’d like. Some people roast the bones for 30 minutes at 350 degrees in the oven before boiling for more flavor but I prefer not to. I think boiling them without roasting them is just as tasty.
- Heavy bottom 8 – 10 qt stock pot
- Sieve or strainer
- Fat skimmer
- 2 lbs of bones – joints and long bones – from any healthy animal. (see above for more info)
- 2 Med Organic Onion cut in quarters
- 2 Lg Organic Carrots
- 2 Organic Celery Stalks
- 2 Lg Organic Cloves of garlic
- 2 Tbsp of Raw Unfiltered Organic Apple Cider Vinegar (most people recommend ACV to “bring” out the nutrients from the bones but if the sour taste, which you can’t really tell, bothers you, you can skip it. You’ll be simmering for a long time so I doubt adding ACV will make a difference in bringing out the nutrients in the end.)
- 1 Gallon of filtered water to start but add more as you simmer.
- (Optional) assorted herbs, stalks from any green vegetables and salt and pepper
Just use the long bones and joint bones, like knees, ankles, and feet. Chicken feet are really collagenous and helps the broth to gel nicely. I don’t mix them with beef bones but I know some people who do. I like the clean taste of just bones without vegetables sometimes so I’d make it with just bones also.
- Don’t wash the bones. I know; it took me awhile to get used to NOT washing but you don’t have to wash them and possibly spread the bacteria that might be on the surface. When you boil the bones, any possible bacteria that might exist on the surface will be killed off anyway. You just don’t want to spread them while they are alive. It’s like “not” washing raw chicken.
- Soak the bones in cold water for at least 2 hours. This lets all the blood or any debris out.
- Place the bones in a large pot with cold water and bring to boil until you see brown foam (cooked blood) floating. Discard the water and the foam. Wipe down the side of the pot clean.
- Boil again with new water and discard the brown foam again. Do this about 2-3 times until you don’t see the brown foam.
- When the final boil is clean, add the rest of the ingredients and simmer, following the cooking schedule below.
- When the broth is done, strain the broth while reserving the marrow and fat, over a sieve, discard the veggies but save the bones for a second or third boiling. Use the fat and marrow for cooking. To prevent histamine reaction (see below for more info), freeze the broth right away. You can store the broth in mason jars in the refrigerator for immediate consumption, up to 3 days. When you freeze them in mason jars, make sure to use wide mouth jars with wide neck (pictured below). Fill it up about 1-2 inches below the neck to allow for expansion. Don’t close the jars. Once they are frozen, then, close the lids. Defrost them in the refrigerator before eating.
- Saved bones can be boiled for a second or third time. I’ve added new bones to the second batch of bones for richer flavor. I’d save steak bones or rib bones from dinners and added them to the second batch and they add great flavor.
Stove Top Cooking Times
For Beef Bone Broth on the Stove – 24-48 hours total
Poultry – 12-24 hours
Fish – 3-5 hours
Crock Pot or Slow Cooker
Follow the steps above to #4, place the bones in the pot, fill water to the top of the pot, making sure it does not overflow. Set the setting to HIGH for about 3 hours. Then, lower the temp to LOW and forget about it for about 12 -18 hours, depending on the type of bone. Taste to check the richness. Strain and reserve the broth and add more water to start again. Some people have the crock pot going for 24/7, continuously adding new bones and water for endless supply of bone broth. Broth will be close to dark amber color if you just use the bones and nothing else.
When simmering on the stop top, start with one gallon of water and add water as needed to bring the broth level back up to about a gallon. You can taste for richness, strain, reserve the broth and add more water to the same bone to start again. I’ve made up to three batches of broth with same bones. Vary what veggies or herbs you want to add. I like making bone broth without veggies or herbs since it’s unflavored and is great for adding to various dishes, like when stir frying vegetables or in sauces, soups, etc. Not having it flavored with herbs and veggies makes it versatile. One difference between making it on the stove top and slow cooker is the color. When cooked on the stove top, the color is opaque creamy white and it gels better. Sometimes I add chopped scallions and leave some of the fat before storing in the fridge.
Histamine Intolerance and Bone Broth
Bone broth can elicit problems for people with histamine intolerance. There are not too many studies to support this finding but this paper titled, Histamine Intolerance (pdf) comes close to explaining why boiling foods for a long time can create histamine reaction in some people. It states, “Histamine and other biogenic amines are present to various degrees in many foods, and their presence increases with maturation. The formation of biogenic amines in food requires the availability of free amino acids, the presence of decarboxylase-positive microorganisms, and conditions allowing bacterial growth and decarboxylase activity. Free amino acids either occur as such in foods or may be liberated by proteolysis during processing or storage.”
According to Dr. Janice Vickerstaff Joneja, PhD., R.D., “Cooked meat uneaten should be immediately frozen. Histamine rises while cooked foods are resting or refrigerated. Freezing halts histamine rising in cooked foods.” Read her complete list of histamine foods here (pdf).
So how do you mitigate histamine problems with bone broth? Freeze them right away. I use these Ball jars below and they freeze really well. Just don’t fill it to the top but below the neck. Just to be clear, the image of my bone broth in the Ball jar above was not for freezing.
Bone Broth and “Die-Off” Reaction
For those people who are using bone broth for the GAPS diet, sometimes, they can experience a ‘die-off’ reaction, a.k.a. Herxheimer reaction, due to bad microbes dying as result of the body detoxing from bone broth. You might have a range of symptoms, like rash, aches, headaches and congestion. If that happens, cut back on drinking bone broth with every meal and start with smaller amounts. Take Epsom salt baths to help with detoxification.
How to make bone broth and why it's healthy
- 2 lbs of bones from any healthy animal grass-fed for been, pastured & free-roaming chicken bones preferred. If unavailable, organic.
- 2 med onion cut in quarters
- 2 large carrots
- 2 celery stalks
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 tbsp Raw Unfiltered Organic Apple Cider Vinegar Optional. Some people recommend ACV to "bring" out the nutrients from the bones but if the sour taste, which you can't really tell, bothers you, you can skip it. You'll be simmering for a long time so I doubt adding ACV will make a difference in bringing out the nutrients in the end.
- 1 Gallon filtered water
- assorted herbs, stalks from any green vegetables and salt and pepper optional
- Don't wash the bones. I know; it took me awhile to get used to NOT washing but you don't have to wash them and possibly spread the bacteria that might be on the surface. When you boil the bones, any possible bacteria that might exist on the surface will be killed off anyway. You just don't want to spread them while they are alive. It's like "not" washing raw chicken. However, if you see obvious debris and blemishes, soak the bones in a large tub of water and drain the water carefully. Doing this will also wash away any blood left on the bones.
- Place the bones in a large pot with cold water and bring to boil until you see brown foam (cooked blood) floating. Discard the water and the foam.
- Boil again with new water and discard the brown foam again. Do this about 2-3 times until you don't see the brown foam.
- When the final boil is clean, add the rest of the ingredients to the pot and cook following the instructions below.
Slow Cooker Instructions:
- For Beef - Set the setting to HIGH for about 3 hours. Then, lower the temp to LOW and forget about it for about 12 -18 hours, depending on the type of bone.
Pressure Cooker Instructions:
- For Beef - place the ingredients in the inner pot, close the lid, and set the valve to "Sealing." Set the button on "Soup", timer on 2 hours or 120 minutes. And when the timer ends, cook for another hour (60 minutes.)
- To prevent histamine reaction, freeze the broth right away. You can store the broth in mason jars in the refrigerator for immediate consumption, up to 3 days. When you freeze them in mason jars, make sure to use wide mouth jars with wide neck. Fill it up about 1-2 inches below the neck to allow for expansion. Defrost them in the refrigerator before eating.
- Saved bones can be boiled for a second time. I've added new bones to the second batch of bones for richer flavor. I save steak bones or rib bones and added them to the second batch and they add great flavor.