Sep 17, 2014

Broth Making:: Reader's Question

I'm answering a reader's question, below.  Also, I'm hosting a vegetable fermenting class on Friday, September 19 at 3pm in my home.  Email me if you are interested. luvmyhub@gmail DOT com

Is bone broth supposed to taste good? My first attempt was nasty and didn't gel at all (was using beef bones).  Where do you get bones?  Do you add chicken feet for gelatin or that Great Lakes gelatin everyone is talking about?  Do you just drink mugs of it or use it for soup base? I appreciate any and all advice. 


Hi Martha!

First - let me congratulate you for trying something new and healthy!  Very soon you will be a broth-making master, I just know it! 

There are many ways to make bone broth.  As for the taste, it is not my favorite to drink just plain.  However, if you choose to drink it plain, be sure to add plenty of sea salt.  Salt can be a deal breaker when it comes to flavoring broth or any broth based soup.  Seriously.

In my home broth is used mostly for making soups, rice, greens and reheating food on the stovetop.

Here are some questions that could help you trouble shoot.

1. How much water did you add to the bones?  

I try to just cover the bones with water.  Too much water can cause the broth not to gel.  Even if it doesn't become gelatinous, it will still be healthy for you.  Homemade broth, even watery broth, is so much better for you than the canned stuff from the store.

2.  Did you add any or too much vinegar?  

Vinegar helps to pull out the micro-nutrients and minerals in the bones.  I usually make broth in either a 4 quart or 6 quart crock-pot and use about 1-2 tablespoons of raw apple cider vinegar.  Too much vinegar can give an off taste to broth.

3.  What kind of beef bones?

Beef broth is my favorite to drink.  I have read that for best results with beef bones, make sure they have been broken or sawed so that you can get to the marrow.  I have purchased beef bones from Whole Foods freezer section (middle of aisle, near bottom of freezer case.  They look a bit like white donuts.)  I have also used bones from steaks and roasts (I ask the butcher to leave them in).  

4.  Where can I get more bones?

Another option for bones if you need to make copious amounts of broth is to purchase necks/backs/stock parts from local chicken farmers (Falling Sky, Freckle Face, and FarmGirl are farmers I know that do this).  Or buy wings exclusively for broth.  Using bird bones from conventional farms will still make good broth.

Chicken feet will provide more gelatin to broth and I use them occasionally.  Freckle Face gives them with the purchase of a chicken; I think all the chicken farmers will sell the feet in bulk.

5.  How long and what temperature did you cook the bones?  

My preferred method is to put the bones in the crock pot, cover with cold, filtered water (no chlorine), add a splash of vinegar and turn to low.  I will let this simmer for at least 6-8 hours and up to 24.  I have left it for 48 hours before but will cation you to be sure to check on the water level.  Even with a lid on the slow cooker, water evaporates.  I have found dry bones before.  On that day, without thinking I added a cup of cold water and broke my hot crock.  I think I had a small amount of bones to begin with and it was a busy season; I just forgot about the broth.

If you decide to make broth stovetop, bring it to a boil then lower to simmer for at least a few hours.  I prefer the crockpot because I plug mine up outside and forget about it.  Animals won't bother it because it gets too hot.  I don't have to smell it nor does it add more heat to my house in the summer.  And if I'm too tired at night to deal with the broth/bones, I can let it simmer until the morning without care.  The smell is the biggest factor for me.  While I use a ton of broth --especially in winter when making soups, I do not care for the smell of broth.

6.  Did you add anything else to the broth besides bones?

If you use bones exclusively, you should not have any off tastes.  Some people report that veggies, after an extended period of cooking (like 24 hours), can make the broth bitter.  If I know that I am going to be making broth for a while, I usually do not add any veggies.  That said, some people swear that veggies can make the difference.  I figure that I will add veggies whatever I am cooking and that I don't want to spend money on veggies in broth .  Broth to me is a vehicle for trace minerals and gelatin.  It is more flavorful than cooking with water.

Yesterday I cooked two whole chickens simultaneously in my largest crock pot.  At dinner, I deboned the birds and threw the bones back in to the crock.  I had some random bones saved in the freezer and added these too.  Covered them all with water and added a generous splash of vinegar.  About 10pm, I turned the slow cooker to low outside.  This morning around 10am (12 hours later) I removed 8 cups of broth (or half gallon) for making soup.  I added another 8 cups of water to the bones along with the veggie scraps from making soup (ends from onions, carrots, and celery).  Bay leaves are a good addition, too.  Tonight around 10pm I will remove at least 8 cups of broth then test the bones.  If the bones are still hard, I will add more water.

How does one "test" bones?
Take a bone from your pot and try to squish it between your fingers.  If it is brittle and smashes easily, you have extracted all you can from it.  Throw it away.  If the bones are still firm, let them make more broth for you.  The bigger bones can be cooked longer.  Chicken feet almost always crumble after 12 hours.  If I have a mixture of bones, I use my judgment on when I think the most of the bones are used up.  It's not an exact science.

The smooshing of bones is a great hands-on learning experience for children.  Once I gave my 9-year-old son a steak bone after it had been made to broth for about 48 hours.  I asked him to try to smash it with his bare hands.  He did and couldn't believe it. The look on his face was priceless.  I told him that, "We drink broth because it is so good for us.  This animal gave us meat and minerals. Do you want your bones to crumble like that one day? Keep drinking broth (in soup)."  He ran off with other bones to show his friends. 

Do I use Great Lakes gelatin?
I've never purchased it.  I buy gelatin from Kroger when I am making jello, gummies, or add it to yogurt when I make it.  I am not opposed to Great Lakes, it's just that buying quality gelatin is not on my high priority list.  If I were looking to heal my gut, I would probably buy a better quality. 

Hope that helps.  Let me know if you have more questions.  Give it another try!

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