Oct 26, 2011

Gelatinous Chicken Broth: Secret Ingredients

Want to know my secret ingredient for making gelatinous bone broth?

Chicken feet.

Looks gross, I know.  But hey, it is time for Halloween and I'm banking that you have seen nastier displays in the store.

Earlier this week I emailed my neighbor pictures from my kitchen when making broth and she promptly let me know that she would not be eating at my house any time soon.

While chicken feet do not look appetizing to our western eyes, several friends living around the globe have assured me that other cultures revere chicken feet.  Indeed, a hallmark of traditional food is bone broth.

If you're grossed out by the fact that chickens have been scratching around in who knows what, blanch the feet for a few minutes (alone) before adding them to the rest of your bones.  The feet that I bought through Cove Creek Acres were clean (as in, had been scalded in the processing of the chicken).  However, another farmer friend gave me some very dirty feet that I boiled for 15 minutes before using in broth making.
When I cook a chicken, part of the overall process for me is knowing I will also make chicken broth.  Making nutrient dense broth helps me justify paying more for a pastured chicken, locally grown.  Meat broth can be made as you cook a chicken in a slow cooker.  The above chicken was roasted in the oven then I pulled off the meat (below).
To the carcass I added a package of chicken feet.
They look quite gnarly, I will give you that.
Toss all your bones in a pot. (If you want to make a lot of broth, you can buy "stock parts - necks and backs.")

Cover the bones with water.  Add a splash of vinegar - a couple of tablespoons will do.  This acid helps to pull out minerals from the bones.  If you forget, forgive yourself and vow to do better next time.  The broth will still be good for you!

For added flavor, you can add some celery, carrot, onion and or garlic all in big chunks.  Usually I do not take the extra time to add the veggies.

After simmering for several hours (3-24 hours, more is better and I usually plug up my slow cooker outside, overnight) the feet will look even more disgusting than when frozen.  Keep the end in mind.  Broth is soooo good for you.  Food tastes better when prepared with broth (instead of water.)
For gelatinous broth, it is not imperative that feet are used.  However if you can muster the courage to find and use feet, the broth will result in more gelatin which is very good and healing for the body.
A common mistake when making broth is to use too much water.  If you just cover the bones with water, the more likely you are to have gelatinous broth.

linked with Kelly the Kitchen Kop


1.  The Healthy Home Economist wrote about the wonders of gelatin and how to get more in your stock.

2.  Every Sunday Cheeseslave answers readers' questions.  In July she posted this about gelatinous broth:

Chicken feet are some of the boniest parts of the bird (chicken necks and heads are also very bony), and they produce the most gelatin.

Gelatin is essentailly collagen, which when heated becomes gelatin. It’s what helps things GELL (hence the name). This is also where the words jelly and JELL-O come from (JELL-O is made from gelatin which comes from the bones and skins of animals).

Collagen is what helps to give us strong bones as well as beautiful skin. Collagen fills in and plumps up your skin so that you don’t get wrinkles and saggy folds.  Read this post about how broth can cure cellulite.

Gelatin also helps to heal the gut lining, so for people who are suffering from intestinal disorders or food allergies, consuming lots of gelatin-rich stock is essential for recovery.

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  1. You didn't mention if your crocpot was set at high, low, or auto. I've done all three settings and not got gelled stock. Your take?

  2. I read on a slow cooker blog (http://crockpot365.blogspot.com/) that the setting refers to the time it takes to get to the maximum temperature. For example, the low setting may take 4 hours to reach the max, whereas high takes much less.

    I have used both low and high and I don't think it really matters which setting you use. The most important thing is to let it simmer for a long time.

    Another tip: a friend of mine said she read that Julia Child recommends propping the lid, and now I can't remember why...

  3. I give the chicken feet a manicure (snip off the claws with a pair of kitchen shears while still frozen before adding them to the broth). It makes them a less repulsive looking. :]

  4. I love using chicken feet in stock! I'm hosting a weekly blog carnival specifically for soups, stocks and chowders, every Sunday. I would love it if you would come over and post this recipe. Here's a link with more info.


    I hope to see you there!



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