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The Healing Power Of Bone Broth

Place all the ingredients into a pot and simmer. Photo byRobyn Rosenfeldt

Bone broth, or stock, is a culinary art and medicinal food that has been used for generations and has recently made a comeback as a popular gut healing food. Broth is made when animal bones are simmered gently for many hours in a pot of water, rendering the minerals and nutrients into a form the body can easily assimilate.

Enjoy the medicinal benefits of broth by including it in soups and stews, or your daily cuppa, bread and occasional cake. You will not only be adding lots of flavour but also healing your gut lining, curing inflammation, easing your food budget and boosting your food ethics.

A Traditional Food

Go into any French restaurant worth its salt and you will find a pot of bubbling broth in the kitchen, made authentically with bones and used as a base to every soup, stew and sauce served to diners. The French knew the flavour that could be gleaned from cooking bones slowly in a pot of water, as did the Italians, Chinese, Japanese, Africans, Russians and those from the Middle East. Nearly every traditional culture used bone broths as part of their diet, but unfortunately today this knowledge has largely been lost, and chefs and home cooks have resorted to finding flavour in synthetic ingredients such as MSG.

The basics of a broth is to add bones and water to a pot and simmer gently for anywhere between four and 40 hours. The magic that happens in this long slow process is that the collagen in the bones and joints is turned into a digestible form of gelatin, along with amino acids and minerals being made available to the body. All are extremely important to healing and continued health.

Broth also adds a lot of flavour to your food. No more stock cubes—you will be using the real thing and your family will taste the difference. Plus you are eating far more ethically when you eat the bones of the animal, making inroads to eating the whole animal (reducing waste).

How Broth Heals

Gelatin is the key ingredient in your healing broth. It can ‘heal and seal’ the gut lining by improving gastric acid secretion and restoring integrity in the mucosal gut wall. The integrity of the gut wall is important to let through needed nutrients and stop unwanted toxins and molecules. When the gut lining is compromised (known as ‘leaky gut’), toxins and other molecules leak through to the bloodstream and brain. If 80% of our immunity is in the gut, then we need to look after this important gatekeeper to infections and toxins.

Broth also helps you digest the food you are eating it with (meat for instance in a stew). It provides amino acids that contribute to your body’s growth and repair, as well as lifting your mood, energy and focus. And the long cooking process draws out minerals such as calcium, magnesium and potassium, offering them to the body in a form that is easily assimilated.

If you have an upset stomach, feel the flu coming on, experience migraines or have aching joints and muscles, sipping on bone broth can give you symptom relief sometimes immediately. Then when you have nursed yourself back to health, try bringing broth into your daily life for several months to see if you can bring about long-term change to your health.

Frugal Food

Broth may be the frugal food. It’s often thought of as peasant food, something that only those with little money are forced to eat, which is rather unfortunate for its image. If bone broth were to cost as much as a grass-fed T-Bone steak, it may be valued for what it is truly worth.

Broth is known as a protein sparer, meaning even though it doesn’t contain complete proteins (only the amino acids arginine and glycine), it allows the body to fully use the complete proteins that are eaten with it. This means you don’t need to eat as much meat when you have broth in your diet, which can help with your budget and your conscience.

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Bone broth in a jar. Photo by Madelaine Steinbach

Where To Source The Bones

If you don’t keep animals for food, make friends with your butcher. Find out what day the animals are brought in and ask them to set aside a bag of bones for you. They will cost either very little or nothing. Feet are prized as a source of collagen. You can use the feet of chicken, cattle, sheep, deer; you name it. Save them, scrub them and you will benefit from a solid and thick set gel in your broth container.

How To Use Broth Every Day:

  • Soups, stews and casseroles. Use broth as a base every time you make one of these dishes. For example, brown 500 g of chuck steak in a pan with onions and garlic, then add to a slow cooker along with 1 L of broth, 2–3 cups of vegetables and seasoning. Cook for five hours on low heat and serve with rice or potatoes.
  • Sip a daily cup of broth. Take five minutes out of your day to have a broth break—you may find this one is a total health game changer. This can be the most delicious way to have broth. The flavour combinations that you can add to your steaming mug are endless. Add 1–2 cups of broth to a small pot along with your ‘finisher’ (try coconut oil, fermented turmeric, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, lemongrass, lemon juice, dried mushrooms, chilli, basil, parsley and/or a pinch of salt and pepper, or add cacao, butter, honey and cinnamon for a sweet treat). Simmer for a few minutes. Sip straight away or take it with you in a thermos. You’re not only getting the goodness of the broth but also the medicinal properties of the finishers you add.
  • Rice, pasta, noodles—anything you cook in water can be cooked in broth. To cook rice, add 1 cup of rice, 2 cups of broth, and . teaspoon of salt to a pot. Bring to the boil with the lid on, then turn off the heat, leave covered and rest for 20 minutes.
  • Sourdough or gluten free bread. Substitute the water or liquid component of your bread or pizza bases with broth. For an easy sourdough bread recipe, use 2 cups of starter, 3 cups of broth, 2 teaspoons of salt and 5–6 cups of flour. You can make a gluten-free pizza base using a cup each of rice, buckwheat and oats. Soak for 24 hours in water, then drain and grind to a paste in a food processor. Add about 3–4 cups of broth plus . cup of starchy flour like arrowroot, then pour the runny mixture onto oven trays and bake.
  • Cake. Use your lightest, least flavoured broth for cakes and cookies. Simply substitute the water or liquid component for broth—no one will taste the difference and your cakes and cookies suddenly become a health food! See the Pip blog for a specific bone broth cake recipe.
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You can add whatever you have in the fridge or garden: parsely, an aging carrot, onion skins, bay leaves and apple cider vinegar. Photo by Robyn Rosenfeldt

Simple Broth Recipe

  • 2 kg of mixed beef bones or lamb, chicken, venison or pork (you can use bones that have been roasted)
  • 4 L of water
  • ½ cup of apple cider vinegar (optional)
  • Leftover vegetable peelings and scraps from onion, carrot and celery (optional)
  1. Bring the broth to a slow boil and leave at very low simmer for 12 to 40 hours. You may want to simmer your broth in a slow cooker so you can leave it on for that length of time. Or you can simmer your broth for a few hours a day if you cannot be home the whole time. It’s okay to turn your broth pot off and on over a few days without keeping it in the fridge in between (as long as you simmer it for at least 10 minutes a day).
  2. The apple cider vinegar is optional, however some say this extra acid can help draw minerals out of the bones and increase the healing properties of your broth. The vegetables are also optional. They will add minerals and vitamins, however they also add a different flavour, so if you want to keep your broth neutral leave them out. Don’t add salt to your broth as while you are slowly cooking it, it will concentrate the salty flavour. Plus it leaves you free to add a savory flavour to your recipes afterwards.
  3. You can make a very nutritious fish broth with non-oily fish frames or prawn casings. Add your seafood frames to a pot and cover with water, simmering for 4–12 hours.
  4. Once your broth is done, cool and strain into containers that you can label and freeze. You may like to keep a litre or two in the fridge to use during the week (it will keep for a week this way).

Tips For Getting The Most Gelatin Out Of Your Broth

You want stock that gels. This means that it goes a semi-solid like jelly when refrigerated. It guarantees you are getting the most gelatin and the most healing properties from your broth.

  1. Keep your broth at a very low simmer. Don’t boil the heck out of it, otherwise you will boil away the gelatin.
  2. Go long and slow with your simmer. For beef and lamb bones it’s 12–48 hours. For chicken and duck it’s 6–24 hours and fish stock is 4–12 hours.
  3. Use the right ratio of bones to water. A rule of thumb is to just cover your bones with water.
  4. Use bones from healthy, grass-fed animals. Usually a chicken frame from a conventional chook will not give you a broth that gels. Add in chicken feet to your broth if you can find them as they contain lots of collagen (which turns to gelatin).
  5. Use the right mix of bones—a combination of meaty bones, lots of cartilage bits like knuckles and tendons, and a larger marrow.

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