Bone Broth – a DIY superfood!

Read Time: 8 minutes

With Bone Broth suddenly oh-so-trendy you can pay unto £7.99 for a 500ml jar. Well that’s just crazy. So, here are the techniques you need to craft your very own long-life jars of this nourishing superfood (and for next to no cost too!)

Super-expensive! Save £££, make your own bone broth

For many people bone broth should be considered one of the cornerstones of a healing diet. Rich in collagen, glycosamino-glycans, chondroitin sulphate [ref] and bone-building minerals it is good for your skin, your bones and teeth and especially helpful for healing the gut (nice article in Medical News Today). I always have jars at hand and brew up new batches regularly. I even, very occasionally, make it for patients (for a fee).

Traditionally recognised as an aid to recovery after illness, ‘flu and pneumonia [ref]; bone broth is also an essential ingredient in the kitchen, where, as the king of stocks it is fantastic for making soups, casseroles and savoury sauces. It is also particularly economic as it makes use of left-over scraps of meat, bones, skin and chicken carcasses, helping you eat ‘nose to tail’.

One of my bone broths served as a starter

Ask your local butcher what odds and ends and off-cuts he has going cheap (or free): trotters, chicken feet, giblets, hearts etc can all be added.

Ingredients ‘Bone Broth’ 

Makes 12 x jars (roughly, depending on what jam jars you have)
3 litres/6 pints

  • Bones, either cooked and retrieved from a roast or raw from the butcher, including knuckles, marrow bones, skin and fat – chicken, pork, lamb, beef…
  • Salt
  • Vinegar (cider or wine)

Optional Ingredients

  • Organ meats: membranes from when you last prepared liver, sweet-breads…
  • Odd bits, e.g. trotters, tails, chicken neck, feet and heart etc
  • Odds and ends of veg (if you wish)
  • Pepper corns and herbs (if you wish).

Hardware required

  • Two large pans (with lids)
  • One small pan (with a lid)
  • A ‘discard’ bowl of some kind
  • A large sieve
  • Tongs
  • Wooden spoon (a sturdy one)
  • Blunt butter knife
  • Largish metal ladle
  • 10 – 14 glass jam jars, with fitting lids, checked for soundness and free of rust.

TIP: Plan ahead. After meals place leftover bones and offcuts of meat, rind and gristle in a freezer bag building up a supply ready for your next bone broth session.

Cooking Methods

The method below uses standard large saucepan with a lid, and takes six hours or more. The alternatives are to use a pressure cooker (which is much quicker) or a slow cooker (which is, umm… slower but needs less attention). I’ll cover these variations at the end.

Step 1: Making the broth

Place all bones and any other animal parts that are going to be in this broth, in your largest pan, to about two thirds full. Cover with fresh, preferably filtered water. Add salt, depending on the size of your pan, but at least one tablespoonful, and add the vinegar, again depending on the quantities involved, but at least 150ml.

If you are going to use vegetables too, add them all now, and place the lid on the pan.

Bone broth cooking; bones, carrots and celery in the pan

Bring the temperature up to a simmer and keep it there, just below boiling, with the lid on and maintain that state for at least three hours.

Put a timer on and check the water level every 45-60 minutes, and add more water as needed, to keep it topped up.

After three hours simmering leave the pot on the stove over night, with the lid remaining firmly in place, so that the broth can gradually cool. Next day check the water level, add a bit more, then turn the heat back on and bring the contents back up to the boil and again simmer, with the lid on for a further three hours. Again check the water every hour and top up as necessary. Taste a little, and add more salt and/or vinegar if you think it could do with a bit more. You cannot really overdo these if you use your intelligent taste buds. (Don’t scald your tongue though!).

Again leave it to cool over night or the rest of the day until just above tepid.

WARNING Do not leave the broth on the stove without a timer, as you can easily forget it is on. A friend of mine did just that, trotted off to London for lunch with a friend and when she got home the kitchen was just catching on fire!

Step 2: Sieving and bottling (canning)

Now begins the hands-on part.

Arrange your kitchen. You will need to clear the decks, put an apron on (for sure!) and get all the jam jar lids into the small pan, covered with water, with the lid on.

Old glass jam jars can be sterilised by heating them in the oven. Lids are sterilised by placing them in a pan of boiling water. Use tongs to remove them when sealing bone-broth filled jars.

Put the oven on to about 140C and place all the freshly washed sound glass jam jars on a baking tray, not touching. Place them in the oven for at least half an hour. This will kill any lurking microbes. The jars will be filled with broth while still hot, keeping everything sterile, so don’t take them out of the oven until you are about to fill them.

Turn the heat on under your broth again, but just to warm it slightly and keep melt the fat, so that it can be stirred in, and not be lost. You want that fat in the final product, so don’t even think about skimming it off!

Wash your hands and lift the bones out of the broth (so it needs to be cool enough to do this, but not cold, as the fats will coat the bones and be lost) and place the bones, one by one, inspecting them as you go, and place them in the discard bowl.

As each bone is removed pluck the small, soft pieces of meat from them and place them in the second, as yet unused, large pan. This will probably not end up as more than a small pile on the base of that pan, but it’s all worth keeping. You will find that thin parts of the bones are very soft and can be broken and crumbled up into the liquid in the pan. This is mineral-rich stuff which we want to keep!

Bones removed from the broth are scraped clean, returning all the recovered meat to a pan ready for sieving.

When any bones with marrow are lifted out, take a pointed item (I use a chopstick) to poke out the marrow. Again, you want this in the soup. It appears that a key part of our evolution involved specialising in bone marrow extraction, and these compounds may have contributed to man’s exceptionally large brain. (See our article on bone marrow here)

Once all the obvious bones have been removed, and all the meaty parts popped into the fresh large pan, set the large sieve over it and pour all the contents of the first pan into the sieve. With a sturdy wooden spoon start pressing the semi-solid contents through, again and again, picking out any hard bits of bone that you previously missed and adding them to the discarded bones, whilst pressing any crumbling softened bone remnants through the sieve if they yield to spoon pressure.

Pressing all the bits through a sieve to enrich the broth. Some bone will soften and crumble enough to press through the sieve too. This is mineral and collagen-rich gut-healing stuff.

This stage will take some time, and some effort! Keep doing it though, and as it gets thicker you will have to scrape all the good stuff off the underside of the sieve, and add it to the broth beneath. It’s all good stuff, full of minerals and collagen and the proteins and elements that our body needs to heal and thrive on.

Once you have rubbed through all that you can, stir the broth and bring the pan full of freshly sieved broth gently back up to a simmer, with the lid on. (If the lid is left off there may be sudden explosive ‘belches’ of hot broth as the lower parts boil before the upper parts do, causing possible scalds, so please keep the lid on). Once simmering gently put the metal ladle into the broth and stir it. This way the ladle will be well and truly sterile when you start filling the sterile jars.

In the meantime ensure your jam-jar lids are sterile (as outlined above) and ready to use. Place a pair of heat-proof tongs in the water with the lids, such that everything in this pan is also totally sterile.

Simmering broth is ladled into the sterile jars, just removed from the oven. Using tongs, sterile lids can be taken from their pan and securely tightened, sealing the jars.

Once the lids are simmering, and the broth is simmering, and the jars have been in the oven for a good half hour such that they are sterile too, remove the jars from the oven, still on their baking tray and place them next to your hob alongside the simmering pan of broth. Fill each jar using the sterile ladle, placing the correct lid on the correct jar using the sterile tongs, stirring the broth between each jar being filled: This ensures that the fats, minerals and bits of meat are evenly distributed between each jar.

Once all your jars have lids on, lift each full jar, using a tea towel (they’re very hot!), and keeping them upright, tighten the lid, carefully. This is a vital stage. If you don’t do it, all your effort will be for nothing as microbes will get in and your broth will be spoiled.

Leave all the jars out to cool. As they do so, the lids may ‘pop’ as the little bit of air trapped under the lid cools and contracts. Most modern jar lids have a security ‘button’ on the top and this clicks as it is pulled down, and again it will ‘pop’ when you get round to opening each fresh jar as you use them. The depressed lids shows that the jars have formed a hermetic seal.

A dozen jars of bone broth, freshly prepared and sealed, cooling on the worktop.

Here are my jars of bone broth: Prepared in this manner, with great attention to detail—re sterility of all implements—these jars of bone broth will last indefinitely. They do not require refrigeration, thus not taking up space in the fridge. I have made 100’s of these and never had one fail.

Can you see the layer of fat that has risen to the top of each jar, and the meaty bits at the bottom? And the rich amber gelatinous broth in between? Riches indeed!

Once opened, the broth needs to be used within three days. Broth is the perfect medium for growing microbes, so it will not keep long once exposed to the air. So if you don’t use a whole jar when you open one, put the rest in the fridge and use within a few days.

Using your bone broth

Your bone broth can be used on its own as a soup by simply heating it in a pan. Such soup is wonderful for someone recovering from a cold, flu or operation, but it also makes a nourishing and warming savoury drink or starter, or gravy.

Bone broth can be added to any number of dishes that you make. Mince dishes are an obvious option, but you can also use it as a base for other soups, casseroles and pot roasts of all kinds.

SEE MY RECIPES USING BONE BROTH

I like using it in beetroot soup too, adding a jar or two of my bone broth after gently frying the onion, celery and beetroot chunks for a while (in goat’s ghee, usually). After another long simmer of all the veg in the broth I usually cool it a bit then blend the lot, and serve with a swirl of goats cream, or grated cheese. Here’s one I made earlier…

Vegetable soups are enriched by the addition of a jar of bone broth.

Let me know how you use it. Post your pics by all means.

See also: IN THE NEWS: BONE BROTH

2 thoughts on “Bone Broth – a DIY superfood!”

  1. I make mine in a slow cooker in the lowest temperature. That way cooks under the boiling point because it allows the bones to cook longer so more nutrients will come out. Some people use the same bones up to 4 days, taking the broth after a day and adding more water, several times until the poin in which the bones crumble; I have tried it once but only for 2 days becasue it was simply to much broth 🙂
    It’s also tastier if we roast the bones first for an hour or so and them put it on the slow cooker as described before.
    I never let it cool; I put it immediately on the jars (that I wash in high temperature in the dish washer) and close it. After they’ve cooled I put them on the fridge and it last for months (with the fat on top, of course).

    But this week I have “invented” a new way to make it! And the tastier I’ve ever drunk!
    I have been roasting my pieces of meat and bone -like a lamb leg- between two pirex bowls (one as a lid) with just salt and little water at 200 C for 3 hours. The “juices” that come out of the roast are like a concentrated broth. I save it on the fridge (it solidifies) and then, when I want to make it, I put 2 full tablespoons on a cup and ad some boiling water from the kettle. Delicious!

  2. Excellent ideas Ana! Thanks for sharing.

    If you read through my method again you will find that the cooling phase is just what happens between repeated episodes of simmering. I am strict about the final strained broth being back at a low boil when it is labelled into baking hot sterilised clean jam jars, and fitted with sterilised lids, quickly tightened up. This approach means they don’t need to use up fridge space at all, but will keep, indefinitely (i.e. for ever) on a shelf in the pantry, and be just as good when opened, months later, as they were on the day it was made.

    I look forward to seeing this article translated into Portuguese!

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