Thursday, December 1, 2011

Making a Simple Bone Broth

One of the best parts of cooking a turkey, duck, or chicken is saving the bones and cooking it down into a broth. I love the rich flavor this homemade broth creates, and I try to make a lot and freeze it for use later. It makes a great base for beans in the crockpot, the most awesome gravy, and is good to use in any recipe that calls for broth. Broth that you make yourself is more nutrient dense, and has only the ingredients that YOU put into it. Commercial broth often carries with it a high level of sodium; since salt enhances flavor, the commercial broths must be pretty awful without it! An added bonus is that the broth is super easy to make, and gives your body a readily available source of calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and trace minerals.

This bone broth is often made from the bones of a bird that was just eaten, and it is usually already seasoned so it needs little added to it for flavor. In my case today, I am using a chicken that we butchered and skinned about a month ago. Since it was skinned, it has none of that luscious skin and fat to protect the meat when baking and I felt it would be easier to boil it down for a nutritious and flavorful broth with a lot of chunks of meat in it. I started out with a whole chicken, and added the necks of two turkeys that we butchered for the holidays, as well as parts of the wings that were too awkward to keep on the turkey but had too much meat on to throw away.

Please excuse the poor photos, they were taken with my phone as I was in the middle of several things at once in a kitchen that boasts modern (1970's) lighting. Eventually I will work on taking fabulous food photos, but not today (or even tomorrow).

To start the broth, find the largest pot you can. Mine is an 8-quart pot I believe; the broth is still simmering on the stove so I can't easily check its size, sorry. Although I do have larger pots, this one is about the perfect size for making broth with leftover bones. Be sure to save the bones from your last fowl meal. They can be stored in a large gallon-sized Ziploc (or other brand) bag for a day or so until you are ready to cook them down. Put bones in the bottom of the pot and add water until about an inch (or two) shy of the edge of the pot. If you fill it too high, the water is likely to boil over. Add a splash of vinegar (apple cider is great for chicken), which will help to draw the minerals out of the bones. Turn heat on high, and let the bones come to a simmer. Once you have reached a simmer, turn down the heat just so the simmering is maintained. Be sure to check the water level occasionally through the day, and add more as needed to maintain the level above the bones.

I will often simmer the bones for at least 24 hours so the broth becomes as nutrient-dense as possible. A crock pot is a great way to make broth if you are going to be away from the stove for much of the day. This photo was taken as the broth was just starting to cool, so a little fat is starting to coagulate on the top. Once you have finished cooking the broth, turn off the heat and allow it to cool. Strain the bones out and compost or bury them if possible. If you are cooking a whole bird (like I am right now), pull the meat out and separate from the bones. This meat can be used for any chicken-based meal, or tossed back into the broth for a quick and nutritious soup with added vegetables. If your final broth seems too watery or takes up too much room, you can always reduce it by simmering the broth for a longer period of time.

Store the stock in glass jars for several days in the fridge or freeze for use later. Some people freeze it in ice cube trays so they can add them easily to any recipe for a boost of flavor.

Since this was an unseasoned chicken, I will eventually add some basic herbs and spices for flavor. Generally I will add what smells good to me at the moment, but a little sea salt, fresh ground pepper, thyme, and fresh garlic are my own absolute minimums for cooking a bird and its eventual broth. The flavors of the broth can be made as simple or as complicated as you like. This method can be used for beef bones as well, and also makes a fabulous tasting broth. What matters is that it is a simple and effective way to add a nutrient dense food to your diet, and it tastes good too!


  1. Sounds good. This is a great post now that we are in soup season. :-)

    Visiting from NaBloPoMo December thread.

  2. I love homemade broth and will more than likely make some more now (after grocery shopping). Well done!


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