From food bloggers to health professionals and Michelin-starred chefs, it seems everyone is talking about bone broth – both for the flavour it can add to dishes from soups to scrambled eggs, and for it’s health-giving properties which are supposed to range from helping with arthritis to helping with cellulite.
One thing’s for sure, while it might be the latest elixir on everyone’s lips, it’s not a new fad: if your mum didn’t make it, your grandmother certainly did… The word restaurant even comes from the 19th century practice of French inns offering travellers a cup of their restoratifs – a thin soup made from boiled bones.
So what goes into bone broth? Well basically that: some animal bones, veg, herbs and water. Boil and let it simmer for a number of hours before drinking.
Isn’t that simply stock? Well yes, in the old-fashioned sense (and stock is probably what your grandmother knew it as). You might also know it as brodo or bouillon – but bone broth seems to have stuck as a phrase to distinguish it from the kind of cubes made by a certain Mr Knorr.
Is there anything in the talk of it being healthy?
Well there are few studies so far (though one did almost discredit it, see below), but advocates such as my wife’s nutritionist claim it helps aid digestion. She swears by a cup each morning.
It’s high in calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, glucosamine and chondroiton, meaning it should support joints, hair, skin, and nails – and packed with amino acids which help the body repair muscle.
At the very least, it’s a nice soothing drink, an alternative to tea and coffee, and costs pennies to make over the course of a week.
The recipe we use is an adapted one from The Nutrition Coach. We took her base idea and have been playing around with it.
2-3kg of bones
2 bay leaves
a few black peppercorns
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
water to cover the bones
Heat an oven to 200c and brown the bones for 45 minutes. Place them with the remainder of the ingredients in a slow cooker and cook on low for 24 hours.
After 24 hours, it’s ready to drink. You should leave the slow cooker on a warm setting and let it continue to cook through the week. Drink a cup of broth a day, and replace any liquid you take out with the same amount of fresh water.
At the end of the week, discard any that’s left, compost or discard the bones and veg and start again!
A couple of points worth noting are:
About the bones
We get most of our meat these days from a local butcher in Otley called Weegmans who are famed for their pork pies, but also do some lovely cuts of meat from farms in the surrounding Yorkshire Dales.
Supporting a local butcher is a great way to make sure you get decent cuts of meat. Even if they are a little more expensive than a supermarket, once you get to know them and they know what you want, nothing is usually too much trouble – plus you can ask for unusual cuts of meat and they’ll always accommodate.
I went in this weekend to get a lamb shoulder for the Sunday roast and asked if they had any spare lamb bones going. Despite the fact they do all the boning on Thursdays, one of the lads went in the back and hacked off the knuckles of a few hocks – and didn’t charge me a penny for them!
You don’t have to use lamb either – beef, chicken (try chucking the whole carcass in after a roast) and even fish will do if you’re a pescetarian.
Another thing worth noting is that by buying from a butcher where you can trace the origin of the meat, you can reduce the amount of lead that will be in your final broth.
The closer animals live to major roads and motorways, the more likely it is that they have been exposed to lead which gets in their system and, by extension, their bones.
A study in the journal Medical Hypotheses looked into broth made:
- using chicken bones;
- using cooked chicken meat without bones
- using chicken skin and cartilage without the bones after the whole chicken had been cooked
- using just water
The chickens were all the same organic breed and everything else remained the same.
The resultant lead levels were:
- 9.5 µgL for broth made with skin and cartilage
- 7.01 µgL for broth made with bones
- 2.3 µgL for broth made with meat
- 0.89 µgL for the lead found in tap water cooked alone.
While the broths made with skin and cartilage and bones alone admittedly had higher levels of lead, this doesn’t mean they are dangerous: they both fell within US Environmental Protection Agency recommended levels which are below 15 µgL.
Still, it can’t hurt to get the best bones you can to make your broth – which is why supporting a local butcher is important.
What else can go in?
We’ve been using the recipe for a couple of weeks now, trying out different bones and throwing in any old scraps of fruit and vegetables: apple cores (minus the pips), onion peel and whole cloves of garlic.
Literally, anything organic you would normally throw away can go in – but we make ours on Sunday morning after peeling the Sunday lunch veg. All the peel goes in – and by lunch time, we can also use the broth as a stock for gravy.