Mmm, bone broth

For most of my life, I was a vegetarian. I fully enjoyed it, felt comfortable and healthy, and I recommend it to anyone who’s interested.

However, things happened and meat is part of my life for the moment. Thankfully, we live just up the street from a butcher (Carnivore Meats) who sells only locally-raised, free-range, grass-fed and grass-finished beef, and other equivalently-raised meat. Until we can get back to #vegetarianlife, we’re supporting these fine folks.

I looked into hunting, which is arguably more ethical and environmentally reasonable than raising animals on ranches, but I’m several educational steps away from being a reliable and successful hunter, so for the moment thank goodness for thoughtful butchers. Yes, my vegetarian friends, I know you just gave me side-eyes. 😉

So, where am I going with all this? Straight to the question of “what do I do with the bones? These are valuable commodities: a wealth of nutrition!” I’m glad you asked. The answer is easy and delicious: bone broth!

At its simplest, bone broth is just bones simmered in water. That’s boring, though, right? Of course we add salt, usually coarse sea salt (we’re harvesting our own now), for flavour and to unlock some of that nutrition. Freshly-ground black pepper is a winner. I found a bottle of mixed herbs and ground-up dried, organic vegetables (update – we’re drying our own herbs now, too, mmmm), and started pouring some of that in, too. The bone broth started to smell more delicious.

Ah but wait, there’s more! Know what really gets this going? Onion and celery! I’ll write out the steps below, and essentially, this turns into a glorious, nutritious cup of soup to which we add a dash of MCT oil (“braaaaiiiiiinnnnnn food”). It’s epic. We make a couple of gallons at a time, freeze it in batches, and thaw the next few days’ worth to store in the fridge, in single-serving Mason jars.

Step one: bone collection. Keep a bin in the freezer and toss your bones into it. It’ll take a while to fill. Whatever size is the largest pot in your house, might as well wait until you have enough bones to fill it about halfway. Toss in all the weird bits of your meat, too: cartilage, stringy bits, whatever is “perfectly good” but kind of grosses you out.

Step two: initiate the boil. Put all of those bones into your largest pot, cover them with water, and bring to a boil. I tend to add the salt, pepper, and random herb/dried-veggie mix at the start so it smells lovely as it heats up.
Get some water boiling in a kettle and set it aside to top up the pot as required.

Step three: simmer the heck out of it. Rumour has it, some people simmer their bones for upwards of several days. We do not. We tend to simmer them for the rest of the day, and often set them to boil and then simmer again the next day. Let’s say, about 16hrs of steady simmer. Add hot water as required to keep the pot reasonably full.

…interlude… is this wasteful? Dude, I don’t know. We don’t have a solar oven, but that would clearly be a better choice than running the stove at a simmer for this many hours. If we had a wood stove to heat the apartment, we could put the pot on top and have this merrily simmer away incidentally. If we had a slow cooker that used less energy than the stove, that too would probably be a better choice. Oh, and there are quick-cookers that will probably do this more quickly. What we have is an electric stove, long-established hydroelectric power, and the desire to make the most of animal products while we’re consuming them. For us, the choice today is to use the bones or throw them away. …now back to your regular programming…

Step five: okay, now you can throw away the bones. Theories abound about what can be done with the bones at this point. I imagine that perhaps one could grind them into bone meal for the garden? I don’t know that for a fact, though, and am not necessarily suggesting it; just saying that there are lots of ideas out there and some of them sound reasonable. To be honest, at this point we just pour the broth through a sieve, leave the bones to cool, and then throw them away. (Keep the broth.) Unfortunately, we can’t compost them.

Step five: fry and simmer the vegetables. We take a whole large onion and chop it into pieces. That, some oil, a pinch of salt, and maybe a couple of cloves of chopped garlic, are tossed into the bottom of the large pot. Heat and stir until the bitterness has come out of the onions. Add a whole head of celery, also chopped. Stir around for a while. When it all tastes amazing and the celery is starting to soften, add hot water to cover.

Step six: do you have any random drippings to add? Some folks like to barbeque or roast their meat. Some folks like to save those drippings. If you’re one of those folks, this is a great way to use them! Add those to the veggie soup that you just made, so they melt down and add all that roasty flavour into the soup.

Step seven: blend the heck out of it. At this point, you have two parts to your bone broth: the bone broth itself (the liquid left over from simmering the bones) and this lovely vegetable soup. Run the vegetable soup through the blender until all of the chunks are gone. Mix the bone broth and blended soup together in a large vessel if you have one, or just aim for half and half in your storage containers.

Step eight: cool, freeze, thaw and serve. Let the soup+broth combo cool and then pop the majority into the freezer. This is super-rich and filling, and we’re about to make it even more rich with the (optional) MCT oil. We like to use 250ml (1 cup) Mason-style jars for single servings. We just cover the bottom of the jar with MCT oil (medium-chain triglycerides, rumoured to be excellent for fuelling the brain) and fill the rest with this lovely broth-soup combo. We keep enough in the fridge for seven days, and tend to drink one with lunch. One of us likes it cold; the other enjoys warming it by placing the jar in warmish water for a half-hour before lunch.

When we’re about two days away from emptying the stock in the fridge, we take out one of the frozen containers and leave it to thaw. Fill seven days’ worth of jars, and the fridge is once again restocked.

Popular question: but is it worth the effort? Can’t I just buy bone broth from the store? Try it and see whether you prefer your own. I know we do, for two main reasons:
1. I adjusted the recipe until we love it. 😉 It’s exactly to our taste.
2. That fabulous butcher down the street sells bone broth, and I’m a big fan of it as a product …but then what do I do with the plastic bag in which it was sold? And what do I do with all of the bones that we’ve saved?

Happy, healthy, nutritious and satisfying broth luck to you! I hope you enjoy this – and would love to hear about your experience and adaptations. 🙂

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