According to culinary tradition, “beef stock” is the name for broth made from bones. It is simmered for many hours to achieve its characteristic deep color and rich flavor. The term “bone broth” rose to popularity with the advent of the paleo diet. In the natural health world, the difference between beef stock and bone broth is time. If cooking on a conventional stove or in a crock pot, stock would cook for a few hours, whereas bone broth would cook for at least a full day and night.
Broth has a long history as a healing food. The father of modern medicine, Hypocrites, often prescribed it for digestive complaints. Today, you may hear it lovingly referred to as “Jewish Penicillin.” Even those who know little about natural health remedies turn to canned soup when they have a cold or flu. But why? What property of the “broth” or “stock” is so fundamentally nutritious? It mostly comes down, not to high nutrient content, but to collagen.
Soup has long been the cure for many ills, but why? The answer is in the collagen.
Collagen is a structural protein that accounts for about 30% of all proteins in the human body. It is the internal glue that holds us together. Collagen is mostly found within our tendons, ligaments, bones, and GI tract. Collagen is made up of amino acids, namely glycine, proline, and glutamine.
Several different factors can lead one to be deficient in crucial amino acids. You may be deficient if you eat a high carb diet, eat a high protein/low fat diet, eat a vegan diet, or if you have a vitamin C deficiency.
While “broth” or “stock” can help to balance deficient amino acids, it can also stimulate the immune system when it is stressed. Glycine is the precursor to glutathione, which is specifically healing to the gut. It promotes growth of intestinal villi and encourages healing from GI conditions such as celiac disease, colitis, Crohn’s disease, and even IBS. Glutamine, another amino acid, is responsible for cell proliferation when building muscles. All around, broth is a power house health tool. If you really want to geek out on bone broth and further investigate its healing properties, including the documented healing of rheumatoid arthritis and cancer, check out this lengthy video.
While bone broth is no doubt a healing food, it is also more complex than stock, and that can cause problems for some. The glutamine content is much higher. Bone broth is also a high histamine food. For those who are very, very ill with a compromised gut or immune system, stock is the way to begin. For instance, when I was very sick from ulcerative colitis, the high glutamine content of bone broth would lead to migraines. The high histamine content would produce painful skin rashes. Even if you can’t tolerate a rich bone broth, stock can still begin to heal the body. The more you heal, the more you’ll be able to progress toward the higher properties of bone broth.
When cooking bone broth, you’ll want to have marrow bones in the mix. These bones will produce the richest, most collagen dense broth. After cooking, the marrow will be like gel. Sometimes it leaves the bones and sometimes the gel is still inside the round center. You can push it out with a spoon and smash it into the broth for added benefit.
The bones on the left are “soup bones.” The bones on the right with the round center are “marrow bones.”
Unlike chicken bone broth, with beef bones, you’ll want to roast them first. The roasting provides a rich, caramel flavor whereas without that step, you might notice a funky “off” taste that professional bone broths expertly avoid.
After roasting, the bones should appear caramelized.
Aside from bones, it’s also important to add a mixture of vegetables. When bone broth was tested for nutrient density without any added vegetables, it scored quite poorly….much less than the researchers supposed, actually. The collagen content would still be healing, but if you want a double punch of collagen and easily digestible nutrients, you need to add vegetables to the bones.
Whether it’s freshly chopped, or frozen scraps, vegetables bring the nutrients to bone broth.
One last tip, which I do not have pictured for this recipe: save your vegetable scraps. When you chop an onion, save the top and bottom. Pop it into a zip lock bag and freeze it. Save your carrot tops and celery ends. Save your potato peels. These can all be used in your bone broth rather than chopping new vegetables. They don’t have to be pretty. The onions can even have skins. Your broth will be strained before serving anyway.
Bone broth has a long history as a healing food.
– 3 lbs. bone mix (include marrow or knuckle bones, not just soup bones)
– 1 gallon ziplock bag of frozen veggie scraps (see above) or the following 3 ingredients
– 6 stalks celery (with the leaves), rough chopped
– 3 large carrots, rough chopped
– 1 large onion, rough chopped
– 2 bay leaves
– 8-10 whole peppercorns
– 3 generous pinches sea salt (I like Celtic sea salt)
– 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
– 4-5 quarts filtered water (this varies by the size of your cooking device)
– fresh herbs and aromatics as desired (ginger, parsley, thyme, kelp and/or dried mushrooms)
To get the richest, most pleasing flavor, roast the bones in the oven for about 30 minutes at 425 on a parchment lined, rimmed pan. They are done when they are brown with a caramelized appearance.
Place the roasted bones, any juices from the pan, and all other ingredients into an instant pot or slow cooker. Use however much water you need to fill your pot to capacity.
If using an instant pot, cook on high pressure for two hours, then allow the pot to slow release. If using a slow cooker, cook on high for 24 hours.
- After cooking, pour the bone broth through a strainer. You can freeze the bone broth in glass jars if you leave an inch of space at the top of each jar. Also, be sure to cool overnight in the refrigerator before transferring the jars to the freezer.
NOTE: I generally run my instant pot or slow cooker 2-3 times with the same ingredients, replacing the water, salt, and apple cider vinegar for each round. The bone broth will not gel as well as the first time, and will appear lighter in color, but is a yummy, economical option for soups and stews.
Here on SpringForestFarm.com, Jennifer Taylor Schmidt writes beef recipes for the busy, natural homemaker. It is possible to seek optimal health with limited time and money. Join Jennifer in future posts as she explores the possibilities found in a 1/4 and a 1/2 beeve. You can also find her thoughts and personal health journey on RealFoodRealHealing.com.