One of my favorite winter foods is bone broth. It’s rich and satisfying and the perfect warming food for cold weather. You’ve probably heard that it’s good to eat for colds and flus, but the benefits are countless and go way beyond acute illnesses. Minerals from the bones are great for strengthening your bones as well as hair and nails. The collagen in bone broth gives you healthy, radiant skin. Bone broth contains glucosamine and chondroitin and therefore is helpful in reducing joint pain and inflammation. It also helps repair your gut lining and enhances gastric acid secretion. Good health begins in the gut where you digest food, so improving gut health is beneficial to almost any health problem including allergies, food intolerances, inflammatory conditions and autoimmune diseases. The gelatin found in bone broth attracts and holds liquids, including digestive juices which make it easy to digest.
Despite all of its healing benefits, I find most people think they don’t have time to make it and they instead use boxed broths, bullions or readymade canned or frozen soups. These products simply do not touch the healing qualities of homemade soup. Luckily, it couldn’t be easier to make. Put the ingredients in a slow cooker or crock pot and let it work its magic all day while you’re at work and come home to a warm dinner.
I suggest freezing the broth in ice cube trays, then storing the cubes in a Tupperware container in the freezer so you always have some on hand and can use as little or as much as you need at a time, similar to the way you would use boxed broth. One or two cubes adds flavor and nutrition to cooked vegetables or a pot of quinoa or rice. Use a few cubes to make gravy for potatoes or chicken. Or, defrost the whole ice cube tray of broth cubes as the base for a quick and easy soup, adding things like white beans, tomatoes, and any vegetables you may have along with some herbs for a flavorful minestrone.
Making bone broth is also very economical, as you can re-use the bones from foods you already ate, like the carcass from a roasted chicken or turkey. Bones from any animal will work including chicken, turkey, beef, lamb, venison, pork, fish, or even shrimp shells. You can get fish bones for free or close to free if you call a fresh fish market in the morning while they are filleting their fish for the day. Or, to make a few meals at once, use a whole uncooked chicken to make a broth, add some of the meat to the soup and make a chicken salad with the rest. As always, food quality is important so use the highest quality bones you can find, such as organic chicken or bones from grass fed animals.
This winter, throw out your excuses and give bone broth a try. Here is a simple recipe:
1 package of chicken backs and necks (you can get these at Whole Foods for about $3)
1 medium onion
2 stalks celery
1-2 garlic cloves
1 t apple cider vinegar
Put chicken backs and necks in a pot or slow cooker and cover with cold water (ideally spring or filtered water) with a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar. Let sit for 30 mins if you have the time. Add to the pot 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped with the skin on. Break the carrots and celery into a few pieces with your hands and throw into the pot, along with the garlic cloves (skin on) peppercorns and a bay leaf (optional). Add water to fill the pot and bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to low, skim off any scum that rises to the top and cook on low for as long as you can, from four hours to as long as 24 hours. After cooking, discard the vegetables and bones or pour through a strainer, and add any chicken meat back into your broth if desired. Salt to taste after cooking. That’s it!