Inside: Making chicken bone broth is a simple, nourishing tradition that really hits the spot in the cold bleak days of January. Try making a batch in your slow cooker. It’s easy and so much better than the store-bought version.
Cold weather can be highly motivating. You probably never thought about winter that way, but when it’s miserable outside, the best way to contend with plummeting temps is to make something so healthy you feel it deep down in your bones. I’m talking bone broth. (Yes, the pun was intended.) There is something so nourishing, so simple about broth simmered for hours. And while the practice is trendy at the moment with the Paleo and Keto crowd, our grandmothers used to do this routinely.
I got my start making bone broth (aka stock) about five years ago. I was fighting a mean bout of depression, and Martha Stewart was teaching basic cooking classes on PBS. Making chicken stock was one of her first episodes, and something rose up in me and said, “I’m going to make this.” I did, and it turned out pretty well. I made it a time or two after that but didn’t come back to it in earnest until about two and a half years ago when I had this strange symptom of the teeth on the right side of my mouth aching—aching so badly that I was brushing with sensitive toothpaste several times a day, using teething gel for babies, and taking pain reliever two or three times per day. Yuck! After dealing with this for a couple of weeks, I found (or more like God showed me) a book on restoring teeth the natural way. I was already mostly doing the diet that was recommended in the book, except that I went back to drinking milk regularly—which I love, so it wasn’t a hard sell to this former dairy farmer. But one of the main staples of this diet was bone broth. I started making batches of broth several times per week, adding it to various soups, and I made sure to have one or two cups per day. Long story short, the ache went away less than a month later. Amazing how our bodies will heal when given the right stuff!
I kept up with the broth for probably six months, though after that I made it less frequently. Now I try to keep several containers of bone broth in the freezer and aim to make a big pot of soup about once per week so there will be enough servings to last three or four days. (I tolerate leftovers a lot more than Hubs, though he will oblige me by eating a repeated meal or two.)
So How Do You Make It?
For me, it’s easiest to keep a plastic gallon bag of chicken bones in the freezer. We do eat a lot of chicken—baked whole chickens, as well as individual thighs, legs, and wings. If you buy rotisserie chicken, keep the bones and add it to your freezer stash. Get take out KFC? Drop them in, too. You get the idea. I should note here that I do rinse the bones off before putting them into the bag, though you don’t have to do so. You can also make stock from fresh meat, obviously saving the meat from the bones for other purposes. (Chicken soup, maybe?) I used to do more of the latter, but now I find collecting the bones is easier. Beyond that, with fresh meat you get more fat—not that it’s a problem, just that there is more to skim off the top. (By the way, you can use that fat, and it’s good stuff, too.) With already cooked chicken, most of the fat is gone, so it cuts my time down in making it. Plus some folks like the raw bones baked on a baking sheet prior to making broth, and it just multiplies into too much work when the easiest method is to keep the bones after the chicken is consumed in the freezer.
Using the slow cooker is by far the most convenient way of cooking. Add ingredients, set it, and forget it. With the slow cooker you don’t have to add more water. For the batch I just made I used my new stainless steel stockpot, and while it is a little more work than the slow cooker method, the added humidity in the house was welcome early in the week with the really cold weather. I only had to occasionally replenish the water lost in the cooking process and stir, of course.
Another tip—once you strain off the bones and vegetable bits (if you use them), the easiest way to remove the fat is to put the stock in the fridge overnight. The fat will rise to the top, and you can easily remove it.
Now on to the recipe. . .
- 2 pounds of chicken bones
- 2 tablespoons of cider vinegar
- Optional vegetables to add in: unpeeled onion, garlic, celery, carrots
- Optional herbs and spices: peppercorns, parsley, thyme, bay leaf
- Put the bones and vinegar into a 5-quart slow cooker.
- Cut vegetables in small pieces if using and add to the slow cooker.
- Add in herbs and spices if using.
- Cover with water (approximately 2 - 2½ quarts).
- Cover and cook on low for 8 - 12 hours.
- Strain and discard bones and vegetable matter.
- Freeze unused portions for future use.
Notes: Often I find myself making chicken bone broth with simply the bones, water, and cider vinegar, so you can make it as simple or elaborate as you like. Hold off adding salt ahead of time, as you can add it into the final recipe in which you use the broth.
Be sure to stock up on stock–yes, another pun–and continue this ancient nourishing tradition!
Next week: Our favorite soup recipes roundup and our must-diffuse essential oil blends for winter!