There’s been more talk lately about the benefits of bone broth soup for health. Although it’s been around for centuries, perhaps even during prehistoric times (mammoth soup, anyone?) the competition with many other main courses drove it to the back of our consciousness for the past couple of decades.
In 2015, bone broth soup is making a comeback.
There is something to be said about eating the whole animal, or sections of it as opposed to one type of tissue (meat, steak, ground turkey, etc.) separated from the rest. First of all, it is less processed. It is in its original form, intact. Ground beef, on the other hand is more processed and oftentimes the lean meat is mixed with animal fat imported from another animal from another country, while an animal long bone with marrow, cartilage, tendons, fat and muscle has not been processed as much and is rich with nutrients just waiting to be used by your body.
When you boil bones on low heat for hours, it breaks down the cartilage and other soft tissue constituents and puts them into solution– the broth (the picture to the right shows their gel like consistency after being cooled). This makes it easier for your body to assimilate and use for rebuilding its own bones, cartilage, tendons and ligaments.
If you’re interested in the names of these constituents, they include proteoglycans (chondroitin sulfate being a well-known one), hyaluronic acid, collagen and elastin. If you use cosmetics for your skin, you may have recognized the last three, as they are common ingredients in high-end skin cosmetics.
Calcium, phosphorus and sulphur, trace elements your body uses for many biological functions are also drawn out of the bone into the broth.
Bone marrow is another nutritious component of long bones (beef, pork). It is actually made up of special cells called stem cells that produce red blood cells and white blood cells. There is also quite a bit of saturated fat, which makes a great, slow-burning energy source that doesn’t wreak havoc with your blood sugar and insulin. Remember, skeletal muscles prefer fat for fuel for your basic day to day movement.
In nature, predatory animals instinctively go for the bone marrow of their prey after the kill. Flying vultures have been observed dropping long bones of dead animals onto rocks and swooping down to eat the marrow. This says a lot about bone marrow’s nutritional and energy content. You can learn a lot about your own health by observing what happens in nature.
Any animal bones can be used to make bone broth soup– chicken and turkey carcasses, beef bones, pork bones, lamb bones and fish skeletons, but the most popular is cow bones. They are usually packed in a plastic bag in the meat section, sawed into 4-5″ frozen sections with all the good stuff attached to the bones. And, they are pretty cheap; about $2.00/pound in my area. If you don’t see any, ask the butcher if he can cut you some.
You’ll need a large pot, preferably a tall one. Add about three liters of water for a 4 lb bag of bones. As an option, add a half cup of vinegar and pre-soak the cold bones for an hour before turning on the heat. This softens the bones and allows the minerals to exit into the broth faster.
Bring the water to a boil. Cover and turn down heat to low and boil for at least two hours. You may need to add a cup or two of water later, as much of the water will be boiled away as steam. Optionally, steep out the blood foam that forms using a strainer (this is only for aesthetic purposes; eating it is fine). Add salt, but not too much. For taste, you can add onions, shallots and/or garlic, and spices like thyme, oregano, curcumin or basil to flavor the stock.
After two hours, turn off the heat and throw in some vegetables like bok choy or cabbage; cover.
I personally recommend eating everything except the bones (only because they are too hard on your teeth), including the tendons, cartilage (they will be softer but still a bit firm, like chewing thin plastic) and bone marrow. The tendons and cartilage will give your jaw muscles a workout, but go for it; it will be well worth the effort especially if you have knee or hip pain from osteoarthritis.
You can also choose to separate the bones/ vegetables and eat them separately, and pour the broth through a cheesecloth into a large container for later use (freeze if you won’t be eating it the next day). Drink directly or use as stock for other dishes. Enjoy!