Bone broth is a delicious, nutrient-rich meal that can be a soothing way to start (or end) your day, a great vitamin boost when you’re sick, even a sacred offering that you pour out for your dead. You can make it using beef, pork, chicken, or even fish bones (folks often include the fish heads when making fish bone broth). All bone broths involve similar steps, though depending upon the density of the bone simmering times and accompanying ingredients will vary. Beef bones, for example, are fairly dense and may take several hours, while fish bones are quite delicate and their broth can be had in an hour or less!
To get started, select the bones you wish to use from your local grocer. In the past you could sometimes get bones for free, but these days expect to pay. Sometimes you can luck out with fish bones as many people don’t like to deal with them, but don’t be surprised if others have caught on to their value. For land animals you want to select fresh, non-smelly bones just as if you were selecting a quality cut of meat. If there are fat morsels or bits of meat still attached, so much the better! The opposite is true of selecting fish bones: you want to avoid oils as much as possible, as these can quickly become rancid with fish. Instead, try to select cod, sole, or rockfish for broth purposes.
Next, preheat your oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit and lay your bones out on some parchment paper in a shallow pan. For beef and pork, roast your bones for fifteen minutes. Chicken and fish can be roasted for as little as five minutes. Remember, the goal here isn’t to thoroughly cook the bones, just to heat them up a bit to deepen their flavor.
Once your bones have roasted, lay them in a pot (or slow cooker, unless you’re making fish broth) and cover them with water, making sure that the water doesn’t go over them by more than two inches. Any more, and you risk having a thin broth. At this point it’s an excellent idea to add a splash of dry wine to the water to help dissolve the collagen in the bones. Red wine is great for beef and pork, while white wine pairs well with chicken and fish. Alternatively, you can use a bit of apple cider vinegar! No matter what you choose, use about a tablespoon of acid per two pounds of bones.
Be sure to add some vegetable scraps! Root vegetables and mushrooms are great additions to beef, chicken, and pork bone broths, while fish broths excel with seaweed, kelp, and leeks. Don’t forget to add some herbs! Rosemary, garlic, and thyme are great additions to land animal broth, while parsley, ginger, and lemon go great with fish.
For beef, pork, and chicken, you can simmer (or slow cook on low) your broth for anywhere between six and twelve hours. Fish bone broth only requires a simmer of an hour! For the land animal bones, just be sure not to simmer your bones for twenty four hours or more as this can cause the broth to “turn” and take on a sickly taste.
Once your broth is done, salt to taste! Start small and work your way up, tasting a bit each time. Remember that its easy to add more salt but you can’t take it away once you’ve oversalted things.
Bone broth will stay good for up to four days in the fridge, but it will last up to twelve months if frozen, so don’t be afraid to make a big batch and then portion out some servings to freeze for the future. Your body and your ancestors will thank you!
[Written by Ashley Nicole Hunter.]