The Fine Line Between Caveman and 50s Housewife
Only a generation or two ago, it was common for women to make homemade stock out of the carcasses of roasted chickens and other kitchen scraps. Not only is it an extremely budget-friendly move, but making homemade stock is so delicious, you’ll never want to go back to Swanson’s again.
Best of all, bone broth (which is what you call a stock when there’s still a little meat on the bones) is a paleo super-food. It’s good for joint health, reducing inflammation, boosting your immune system, wound healing, digestion, relaxation, and skin rejuvenation. Basically everything.
How do I eat it?
Lots of paleo folks drink hot bone broth like coffee in the morning. I have done that one time (I had a cold and needed an immune system boost), but I am not nearly hardcore enough to do it regularly.
But I love it as an ingredient! It makes a great base for soups or cooking liquid for vegetables. You can (and should!) use it any time a recipe calls for stock or broth. It freezes really well–so make some any time you have some bones, and keep it for next time you want soup.
Bone Broth Recipe
- Bones–If you buy a bone-in roast or a whole chicken, eat the meat and then reuse the bone! Or else you can buy beef soup bones, oxtails, and marrow bones at any butcher or farmer’s market and many grocery stores too. Any animal will do, but of course, it’s better to use the bones of healthy animals (i.e., bones from the farmer’s market will be better for you than factory-farmed grocery store bones). I do both–it’s a good/better/best thing.
- Apple cider vinegar–This helps break the minerals out of the bones and makes them more available for your consumption. If you don’t like vinegar, you can squeeze a lemon into your pot instead–and throw the used lemon in too for some extra pectin.
- Vegetables–I like to use vegetable odds-and-ends for bone broth, since i’m going to throw them away after stewing anyway (the nutrients leech into the broth so you don’t need to eat the stewed vegetables). If I know I have a batch of broth coming, I’ll keep the ends of my celery, carrots, turnips, asparagus etc. that I would otherwise throw away and throw them in the pot instead. I also always throw in an onion for flavor. You might want to avoid cruciferous veggies like brussels sprouts and cabbage, which could turn bitter after that much cooking time.
- Spices–I don’t add salt at this point because the flavors get really concentrated. But I usually throw in a bay leaf and peppercorns, and sometimes other spices that strike my fancy at the time.
Put all your ingredients in a slow cooker. Cover with water. Turn the slow cooker on low and leave it on for a long time: 8-12 hours for chicken, and at least 12 hours for bigger bones. We usually run our beef bones 24 hours, sometimes longer. As the liquid evaporates, add more water.
When your liquid is dark (chicken turns yellow; beef turns brown) and the smell is heavenly, strain the broth through a fine mesh sieve and discard the solids. You can actually reuse big bones (like beef bones) until they go soft, but the flavor is less intense with the second stewing.
Depending on what you’re using it for, you may want to dilute your stock (I often dilute for soups to make it last longer). Once you’ve added any water you’re going to add, salt according to your taste.
A Commitment to Whole Foods
We talk all the time about how important it is to eat whole foods. We all know that eating an apple is better than drinking apple juice, because the apple contains fiber that the juice does not. Well, the same principle applies to animals–when animals are food, we should eat the whole animal.
The reason for this is so simple and yet so magical: organisms are perfect the way they are. Stripping them into component parts means we risk missing out on some of the beautiful synergies inherent in their design.
For basically all of human history, animals were eaten nose to tail: muscle meat, bones, connective tissue & cartilage, and organ meats were all used to protect against the next famine. We were not designed to just eat the muscle meat as we do in today’s period of perpetual abundance. Know how I know? Check out this beautiful synergy:
Methionine is an amino acid found in abundance in muscle meats. We need it in some quantity, but too much methionine can make us gain weight and cause oxidative damage to our mitochondrial DNA. Enter glycine, which is found in abundance in bones. Not only does glycine play a key role in relaxation, wound healing, kidney and liver function, and even possibly cancer-prevention, but (best of all) it also counteracts chronic methionine toxicity, such as we might get from eating lots and lots of muscle meat. Through this function, glycine could be the key to longer lives; rats who ate a methionine-containing diet lived 30-40% longer when they received a glycine supplement.
So go ahead and eat muscle meat–just drink your bone broth too.