Homemade bone broths should be a fundamental component of every kitchen. The added flavor and nutrition these broths add to your food are unrivaled. And with the ease of a slow cooker, like how I make my Slow Cooker Ginger Chicken Stock, there is no excuse not to add this to your weekly repertoire.
Health Benefits of Bone Broth – An All Natural “Youth Serum”
“Broth’s nutritional complexity makes it a nearly perfect bone-building joint-health supporting package.” Dr. Catherine Shanahan
Joint Health – Healthy joints rely on the health of the collagen in our ligaments, tendons, and on the ends or our bones. Eating collagen rich stock supplies our bodies with glycosaminoglycans that protect our joints. There is no need for over the counter glucosamine joint and arthritis supplements (part of the glycosaminoglycan family of molecules) when incorporating bone broths into your diet. Collagen is also found in bone, skin, arteries, and hair- why Dr. Shanahan likens glucosamine-rich broth as a kind of “youth serum.”
Bone Health – there are two types of food abundant in easily absorbable calcium; raw dairy and bone broths. If you do not tolerate dairy it is especially important to include bone broths in your diet. Bone broth is full of calcium, magnesium, potassium, and other important minerals essential for strong bones. Adding acidic wine or vinegar to the water in preparing the broth helps draw out these minerals into the broth.
Liver Support – the liver uses glycine for detoxification, an amino acid found in gelatin rich bone broths.
Digestive Health – the gelatin in homemade bone broths aids digestion by balancing hydrochloric acid. It’s especially helpful for IBS, Chron’s Disease and other digestive disorders. The gelatin helps calm and soothe the digestive tract by lining the mucous membranes. Glycine enhances gastric acid secretion and aids in protein digestion – a good reason why gelatin rich gravies pairs so well with meats.
Adding Flavor without MSG – MSG is an artificial chemical used to impart a “meat” like flavor to foods, common in canned soups and countless other processed foods. MSG is extremely toxic to the nervous system and should be avoided (even so called “natural spices” can contain MSG). Homemade stock is the perfect flavor base for sauces, gravies and soups without the need for bouillon cubes and other artificial flavorings.
The gelatin and minerals in bone broth aid the body in healing from colds, sore throats, wound repair, and other infections. It is found in cuisines all over the world as fish, chicken, and beef stocks. Our ancestors derived nutrition from animal bones for thousands of years. It’s time to get this essential ingredient back into our kitchens – your health and your taste buds will thank you.
Broth vs. Soup vs. Stock
broth |bräθ; brôθ| noun – soup consisting of meat or vegetable chunks, and often rice, cooked in stock.
soup |soōp| noun – a liquid dish, typically made by boiling meat, fish, or vegetables, etc., in stock or water.
stock |stäk| noun – liquid made by cooking bones, meat, fish, or vegetables slowly in water, used as a basis for the preparation of soup, gravy, or sauces.
The term broth dates to 1000 CE from the German root bru, meaning to prepare by boiling. Stock has over 60 related meanings and applies more to the concept of basic materials and sources, as using bone stock as a base for gravies and sauces.
Slow Cooker Ginger Chicken Soup
All you need for great stock is (organic) chicken bones and water, though this is my favorite way to prepare it – I love the added flavor and health benefits of ginger. I reserve the chicken necks and other bones in the freezer (or buy from the butcher) for making stock, or I use a whole chicken when I plan on serving chicken soup for dinner.
1 organic chicken (preferably free-range), or bones from a roasted chicken, or 3 pounds of chicken bones
2-4 chicken feet (optional – but adds more gelatin to the broth, many butchers sell them)
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar (enables more minerals to leech into the stock)
2 onions, roughly chopped
2 stalks celery, roughly chopped
1-2 cups fresh ginger, roughly chopped (no need to peel)
2 heads of garlic – with cloves separated
2 lemongrass stalks – optional, infuses an Asian flavor
*carrots, parsley, zucchini, sweet potato and other herbs and vegetables
1. Place chicken and/or chicken bones and feet in a slow cooker insert – 6 quart or larger. Add the apple cider vinegar and fill the insert with cold water. Cover the insert and turn the slow cooker on to low for longer cooking time or on high if you only plan on cooking for 6-8 hours. (Some slow cookers run very hot – if yours does, it’s best to cook on low so as not to boil the stock continuously, you want it to barely simmer).
2. Skim the “scum” from the broth (usually appears after a few hours depending how hot your slow cooker runs).
3. Add ginger, garlic, celery, and onions and cook the broth for 12-24 hours.
4. If you are using a whole chicken, you can remove the meat from the stock once its cooked through and reserve for chicken salads or for serving later with the stock so as not to overcook the meat.
5. Add additional vegetables towards the end of cooking time. Herbs should be added 10 minutes before serving.
6. Once the stock gets a golden color it’s ready to serve, though the longer you cook it the more nutrients the stock will have. Strain the stock. let cool, and refrigerate for 4 days (leave the fat layer that forms on the surface for better storage) or store in individual containers in the freezer for 3-4 months.
*Note: When I use a whole chicken, I remove the meat from the bones and reserve in a container once its cooked through so as not to overcook the meat (especially the white meat). I also prefer to add additional vegetables like carrots and zucchini about an hour before serving – just enough to cook through but not too long for their flavors to overtake the stock.
Over the years I have accumulated these 2-cup glass Pyrex storage containers that are perfect for freezing stocks and soups. I pull them out as I need them and either defrost in the fridge or place in a warm bowl of water for a few minutes to be able to remove the stock into a pan for reheating. They are also the perfect individual serving size – many mornings I sip reheated broth in a thermos the way many people carry their coffee and tea on the go.
Sources and Recommended Reading
The Fourfold Path to Healing by Thomas Cowan
Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats by Sally Fallon
On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen by Harold McGee
Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food by Catherine Shanahan
The Case for Reviving a Classic French Specialty: Broth – The Atlantic
Was Grandma Right About Chicken Soup? – The Examiner
Broth is Beautiful – Weston A Price Foundation
Why Broth is Beautiful – Kaayla T. Daniel
MSG: Is This Silent Killer Lurking in Your Kitchen Cabinets? – Dr. Joseph Mercola
How do you prepare your stocks and soups? What are your preferred flavorings? How do you incorporate bone broths into your foods?