As I sit at the computer this morning, there is the sound of rain on the roof... fall seems to finally be here, yeah!
There's a chill in the air and I am sipping on a mug of bone broth. I am often asked for tips to support bone health, either by younger folks wanting to have strong bones, or by others that have been diagnosed with osteoporosis or osteopenia. A common result of our on-the-go-processed-food diets is that we are often missing out on important nutrients, and our bones are impacted along with other aspects of our health.
Many take all sorts of vitamins and minerals and still may not be meeting all of their nutritional needs. A tasty way to get the minerals we need along with electrolytes and other important nutrients such as collagen is from a common staple from our mom's or grandmother's kitchen: bone broth or stock! The bone building minerals in the broth are easily recognized and absorbed in our bodies and may be a great alternative to the many prescription medications we take for bone health (without the side-effects!)
Properly prepared, meat and bone stocks are extremely nutritious, containing collagens, minerals, glucosamine, and chondroitin from bones, cartilage and marrow. As opposed to the mineral supplements mostly sourced from rock, our bodies will more easily recognize these bone nutrients. Acidic vinegar that we add during cooking helps to draw minerals, particularly calcium, magnesium and potassium and gelatin/collagen, into the broth.
There is a large amount of research on the beneficial effects of gelatin/collagen. Gelatin acts first and foremost as an aid to digestion and has been used successfully in the treatment of many intestinal disorders, including colitis and Crohn's disease. Although gelatin is by no means a complete protein, containing only the amino acids arginine and glycine in large amounts, it acts as a protein sparer, allowing the body to more fully utilize the other complete proteins in your diet. Gelatin-rich broths are a must for those who cannot afford large amounts of meat in their diets.
Gelatin has been used in the treatment of many chronic disorders, including anemia and other diseases of the blood, diabetes, muscular dystrophy and even cancer. Collagen is similar, and may be more easily used by our bodies, ”colla” translates from the Greek to ”glue,” the glue that holds our bodies together.
There are many Bone broth products available in stores, along with powdered gelatin, collagen and bone broth powders on the market these days, so we no longer have the excuse that we don't have the time to bother with making bone broth/stock. Please make sure it says ”pasture raised” on the label for the best quality.
Meat, poultry and fish stocks are used almost universally in traditional cuisines - French, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, African, South American, Middle Eastern and Russian - but the use of these homemade broths have almost completely disappeared from the Standard American Diet (SAD).
In folk wisdom, rich chicken broth - the famous Jewish penicillin - is a valued remedy for colds and flu. Modern research has confirmed that broth helps prevent and mitigate infectious diseases. The wise food provider, who uses gelatin-rich broth on a daily or frequent basis, provides ongoing protection from many health problems.
Fish, poultry and meat stocks along with the many health benefits, also add immeasurably to the flavor of our food. In European cuisines, rich stocks form the basis of those exquisite, clear, thick, smooth, satisfying sauces. The magic is in the stock, made from scratch with as much care and attention to detail as the final dish. The test of whether your stock contains liberal amounts of gelatin is by chilling the broth. It should thicken, even to the point of jelling completely when refrigerated.
Place bones in a large stockpot or a slow cooker and cover with filtered water and add vinegar (this helps extract the minerals from the bones). Add onion, carrots, and celery if you'd like and bring to a boil, skimming the foam that rises to the top with a large spoon.
Reduce heat to a low simmer and cook for at least eight hours, up to 48 hours (shorter time for chicken bones, longer time for beef bones). Many of us are now using the Instant Pot, electric pressure cookers, which shortens the broth cooking down to a couple of hours.
Add salt, pepper, garlic and other fresh herbs/spices during the last hour of cook time. Remove from heat (or turn off slow cooker) and let cool slightly. Strain broth through a fine mesh sieve and discard the solids.
When cool enough, store in large jars. Homemade bone broth will keep for three days in the refrigerator or up to six months in the freezer. You can also freeze broth in ice cube trays and then transfer to a sealed container so you always have convenient smaller servings on hand. We usually store ours in pint containers in the freezer. Do try this at home. Salud!
At Natural Grocers in Eugene, where I am the store's Nutritional Health Coach, we offer free classes that include plenty of information about healthy eating choices, and free one-on-one health coaching sessions (call 541-345-3300). Please ”like” our Natural Grocers-Eugene Facebook page. Find our store's schedule of free classes at: https://www.naturalgrocers.com/store-location/eugene/.