My first year of adult life was lived out in a cozy little apartment, where I alternately studied tax law, read Food & Wine, and indulged in all of the gourmet cooking that I wanted. Memories of my first batch of chicken stock include lifting the lid off of a steaming vat of broth every few minutes – for hours – to check on my precious broth.
That same level of intense focus, with no distractions, is simply not achievable these days! If I’m going to make broth (which needs to simmer for 12 – 72 hours) it has to be able to survive on its own while I attend to the needs of three children, a household and a business. Yet, I still very much want homemade broths, especially “bone broths”, to be a part of our diet and of my regular kitchen routine.
Fitting Bone Broth Into A Busy Life
A few months ago I added a large crockpot to our wee little kitchen and started using it to cook whole chickens. I saved the broth that was left in the pot and was quite surprised when it gelled in the refrigerator. None of the stock that I’d made before, or bought in a store, ever did that! I used up all of that broth very quickly and decided that I might as well keep making broth since we were using at least one whole chicken every week.
A few months later, I picked up a copy of Nourishing Traditions and found out that gelatin in my chicken broth was a very good thing. It is very healing for the gut, among other things. But, I also found out that my broth was not all that it could be. The crockpot technique that I was using would be fine, but there were tweaks that I could make to enhance the healing properties of the broth.
What follows is a description of how I’ve been using my crockpot to make bone broths, plus the tweaks that I’ve learned to make my broth as good for our bodies as possible.
How To Make Bone Broth In A Slow Cooker
- Save chicken bones in the freezer. When I cook a whole chicken, I generally save the neck and internal organs, if they were included in the cavity, and all of the bones that are left after I pull the meat to use in recipes. I put all of this into a gallon freezer bags and add to the bags until they are full.
- Start the broth. On a day that I make the broth, I put the frozen bones, one onion, two carrots and three stalks of celery into the crockpot and then add water until the bones are covered. Two tablespoons of vinegar are the last ingredient. This needs to sit, unheated, for one hour.
- Bring the broth to a boil. Turn the slowcooker on high until the broth boils and a scum forms on the top of the broth. Skim this scum off and throw it away.
- Let the broth simmer. Turn the broth down to low and let it simmer for hours and hours and hours. I aim for 24 hours with a chicken broth. I would not feel comfortable leaving our propane stove on all night, but I’m fine with leaving the stock bubbling in the crockpot.
- Strain the bones and meat: After such a long simmer, the bones will be incredibly soft. You can smoosh them to a pulp in your hand! Remove what bones you can with tongs, and then strain the broth in a fine mesh strainer to remove any small bits of bone and meat.
- Cool the broth: I leave my broth in a covered container on the counter until it has cooled to room temperature. Then I move it to the refrigerator. The fat will solidify at the top. Do not scrape this off! If you’re using organic chickens that were raised properly, then this is GOOD fat that you need to be eating.
- Use or freeze: Refrigerated broth needs to be used within 5 days (according to various sources that I’ve read), but you can also freeze the broth for later use.
Tips for More Nutritious Broth
- Add vinegar: Here’s the quote from Nourishing Traditions that explains why, “Acidic wine or vinegar added during cooking helps to draw minerals, particularly calcium, magnesium, and potassium, into the broth. Nourishing Traditions p. 116 “
- Add parsley: Parsley is included in the chicken bone broth recipe in Nourishing Traditions. I would likely have left this out if a note hadn’t been added that adding the parsley for the last 10 minutes of cooking imparts additional mineral ions. I want minerals from my broth, so I’m going to start keeping parsley on hand for stock making.
- Use a whole chicken: I’ve been using a crockpot to cook whole chickens, but I wasn’t adding any water. The broth that cooked off would gel very well, which means that it contained a lot of gelatin. I’ve not been able to get the broth that I make strictly from bones to gel, and Nourishing Traditions says that this is a common problem with battery-raised chickens. So, until I can get my hands on pastured chickens, I’m going to try making broth with whole chickens.
- Add chicken feet: Yes, the thought of this makes me cringe, but I’m going to try it anyway. The chicken feet are supposed to have tons of gelatin in them and to be a key ingredient in “Jewish penicillin.”
A Word about Nourishing Traditions
For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, Nourishing Traditions is a cookbook/text that explains how to prepare foods more healthfully using food preparation techniques that have been almost lost in modern times. In the section on stocks and broths, I learned that the gelatin from the bones helps the lining of the gut heal. And the minerals from the bones help our bodies get minerals that are often missing in our modern diets. I particularly liked how the author included quotes about bone broths from various cultures and literary works. Be sure to look for the excerpt from one of Willa Cather’s novels.
You can find excerpts and come recipes from the stock section of Nourishing Traditions, in this article by the author, Sally Fallon.
Your Assignment For Today
- Mentally evaluate your resources:- Do you have a crockpot or large stock pot? a strainer? a container for storing the broth? room in freezer for storing bones?
- Talk to your butcher: Can you buy bones from him? Can he get you chicken feet? If nothing else, just buy a whole chicken and start with that.
- Set a deadline: Look at your calendar and set a date for making your first batch of bone broth.
- Comment below: If you already make bone broth, go to the comments and share your tips, tricks, and healing broth stories. If you’ve not made broth, tell me what is keeping you from doing it and how you’re going to overcome that obstacle.
- Share: If you’ve been thinking, “So and so should really read this,” then send this article to them!