What are the benefits of bone broth?
If using the term ‘superfoods’ is still in vogue then bone broth is the quintessential superfood. It s fantastic for fertility. It can help heal poor digestion, is a great source of calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, potassium and many trace minerals, it helps with the body’s natural detoxification and has been shown to reduce blood pressure and blood sugar. But is drinking it ‘normal’?
Can you drink bone broth? Are you MAD?
I wanted to drink my nutritious broth in place of a cup of tea at work, but I was worried about my reputation, which I fear was already suffering from the peeling and eating of boiled eggs at my desk. Bone broth is what all the hipsters and cool yogis drink now, so it is definitely an acceptable drink, right? If anything, my work colleagues may consider me to be too try-hard, a wannabe trendy Trudy.
I was wrong. They thought I was weird. After heating up my first work cup of bone broth and discreetly slipping back into my seat I saw one colleague's nose whip into the air, like a hound detecting the scent of a nearby fox. She spun her chair around and wheeled towards me (chairs being the only item that our office hasn't scrimped on). "Are you drinking soup? Goodness, it's a bit watery..." After I corrected the mistake and pointed out that it was bone broth, she took a moments reflection before asking "are you drinking chicken stock?". That was the cue for all my team to cease their work, rotate in their chairs and focus on me. The enduring question was "why?". So I took them through the nutritious benefits of drinking a delicious cup of chicken stock, I couldn't remember them all so I missed out a few and made up a couple of others, and feeling righteous I told them to Google it. I meant in their own time, but they did it then and there. Unfortunately for me, and a number of hipsters and cool yogis, on the first page of search results for 'benefits of bone broth' is Science can't explain why everyone is drinking bone broth. Damn you Time Magazine.
Well, I for one am sold on the benefits of bone broth. It is supposedly highly nutritious, a good source of minerals, helps to heal a poorly gut and get digestion back on track, boosts the immune system, to name but a few of its positives. Broth was also something commonly made by our grandparents' generation, so it's not to be sniffed at as their nutrition in general was much better than lacklustre attempts nowadays. When grandparents force fed chicken soup to anyone suffering from a cold, like a goose making its way down foie gras alley, it was more akin to chicken bone broth than our current shop supplied chicken soups, with nondescript white chunks drowning in it which one can only hope once came from a hen. Maybe I'm just drinking a mug of placebo, but to be honest, I don't mind that.
How is bone broth made? Not for the faint-hearted (or vegetarians)
What I'm less taken with is the production process. As a vegetarian during my teenage years I was a little squeamish at the thought of handling and boiling raw bones. The first time I made bone broth my husband came rushing into the living room concerned to find out why there was a chicken carcass and a multitude of chicken necks in a bag on the kitchen counter. It appeared that an unreported poultry massacre had occurred and I was to blame. 'It's defrosting' was my too literal and not very informative answer. But now we are both accustomed to the grizzly nature of making home made broth. The boiled meat scents that fill the air and smell like my grandma's house when she began the Sunday roast at 9am in her dressing gown. When lifting out the bones, the disgusting dribble of the marrow that slops out of the centre, usually on to my kitchen floor as I'm disposing of the bones. The gelatine hat that the broth begins to wear after a day in the fridge. This is all part of the experience. And it what makes a cup of your own home made broth taste feel like a well earned treat. Or, you could pick up some broth to trial it first. I'm horrified to say that all shop bought broth tastes better than my home made batches.
Where to buy bone broth
Because drinking broth is so normal now (if I say it enough times it somehow becomes true) there are plenty of shops that sell it, such as Pret A Manger or Crussh (if you are London based). But the best thing to do is to buy batches of organic bone broth from farms and store them in the freezer. The award winning Coombe Farm Organic sell a selection of tasty broths, or check out Eversfield Organic as an alternative.
So, in the words of an ex-boyfriend trying to encourage some rather dubious sexual adventures, "don't dismiss it until you've given it a go". If I were to give bone broth a tag line it would be 'smells like farts but tastes like a blended McDonalds'. Who wouldn't want to give that a try, hey?!
How to make bone broth - Bone Broth Recipe
If you're tempted, here is the recipe for how I make my broth.
Your bones of choice - e.g. Chicken carcass, necks, or other bones (ask at you local butchers, mine sell me a bag for 50p)
4 garlic cloves
2 bay leaves
1 handful of fresh herbs (rosemary is a favourite)
Place the bones into a slow cooker or larger saucepan and pour into the pot filtered water, enough to cover the bones by a couple of inches. Add the onions (removed of its outer skin and quartered), the garlic cloves (no need to peel as these will be sieved out later), bay leaves and fresh herbs.
Put the slow cooker onto a low heat, or the pan on a medium to low heat, and leave to bubble away for a long as possible but a minimum of 3 hours.
After the broth has simmered away for 3 or more hours, remove it from the heat and allow to cool slightly (to avoid the inevitable splashing and burning of hands - happens to me every time). Pick out and discard any of the big bones and then pour the remainder of the contents through a sieve (lined with muslin if you want a really smooth broth) and into a container. Don't forget the container! Learn from my mistakes and don't accidentally pour all the broth (and at least three hours of your life) down the drain by forgetting to catch the liquid.
Then throw away the contents caught in the sieve (they are often stomach turning mush) and leave the broth to cool. You can keep the broth in the fridge for around a week. It can be used in many cooking recipes, or as a weird but tasty hot drink.
Homemade fresh bone broth can be stored in the fridge for use in recipes throughout the week or as a nutritious hot drink in place of a cuppa. Everyone is drinking it these days so it no longer makes me a weirdo.
Bone broth develops gel over time, which looks like melted wax and for those new to broth, can be somewhat alarming. Sometimes the gel is in chunks that float around the broth and other times it extends all the way across the top of the broth like a wax hat. The wax hat is apparently a sign of a good broth, as the gel is the gelatine from the bones which is good for your body. No need to sift off the gel. Just break it up, mix it in and it will dissolve back into the broth when heated.