Remember the welcoming smell of your grandmother’s kitchen- the comforting aroma of bone broth simmering gently on the stove? Well, Grandma was smarter than you might realize and I’ll explain why. Oftentimes, the healthiest foods aren’t the fancy ones we purchase at Whole Foods. Sometimes, the simplest foods, the ones’ reminiscent of our grandmother’s kitchens are the one’s we gain the most health benefits from.
I’ve seen clients in many stages of health, battling infinite types of illness, and often diet is lacking. It is easy to get carried away with food extremism, especially with so much contradictory information on diet. I see people swing from one end of the spectrum to the other, vegan one month and Paleo the next, often with dire consequences to their health. Food is undoubtedly our best medicine, yet it is difficult to maintain a balanced perspective on just what conjugates a “good” diet. Soups and stews are my favorite foods as they are easy on the digestion and so nourishing. Homemade bone broth offers exceptional benefits, benefits that I, a cook and health practitioner, was unaware of until recently. We often overlook the simplest, cheapest and healthiest sources of food, food that is our best medicine. Recently, I discovered my own best medicine in the shape of bison marrow bone.
Making broth from bones breaks down collagen, allowing for the availability of amino acids for the connective tissue structures in our bodies. The five most common types of collagen are essential to skin, tendons, ligaments, internal organs, bones, the vascular system, cell membranes, the eyes, hair, nails, the placenta… the list goes on. Many supplements try to patent these important proteins like Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate, but how effective they are is controversial.
Bone broth contains four “nonessential” amino acids. These are considered “nonessential” because in theory our bodies can manufacture them. But if we look closely at what these amino acids do and the types of diseases most Americans suffer from, it is probable that we don’t manufacture these amino acids in the ways we should. Perhaps only those with the most vitality produce these amino acids sufficiently and the rest of us need help. The four nonessential amino acids are proline, glutamine, glycine and alanine. In short, proline helps create healthy cartilage and bone. Unhealthy cartilage and bone sound familiar? Various types of arthritis affect one in five Americans (52.5 million people) and can be a crippling disease. Glutamine is essential to gut health as it heals the villa of the small intestine, where the absorption of essential vitamins and minerals takes place. Glutamine deficiency is indicated in all kinds of intestinal disorders like Crohn’s disease, celiac, ulcerative colitis etc. It also crosses the blood brain barrier, which is why it has been found useful for many psychiatric disorders such as depression, anxiety and even schizophrenia. Glutamine comprises an important part of the GAPS ( Gut and Psychology Syndrome) diet developed by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride. This diet was originally developed for those suffering from autism, ADHD and schizophrenia, but has been used to treat all sorts of autoimmune and digestive disorders as well.
Glycine has the honor of being the basic building block for all other amino acids and is essential for healthy blood, fat, digestion and detoxification. Along with alanine it is necessary for wound healing and can be found in high concentrations in connective tissue and skin.
Alanine is valued by body builders and athletes for its abilities to enhance endurance and build muscle mass. It is also being researched for it’s anti aging components.
The source of your meat/bones is of consequence and if you’re lucky, you’ll have choices. At Frontier Natural Meats in Longmont, I was able to get grass fed bison marrow bones from a ranch in Colorado for $2.25/lb. Immediately upon entering, the store owner gave me the “nickel” tour on what’s available and the quality of their meats. (I was able to special order some chicken feet, as well.) At Whole Foods, I was able to get lamb shanks from a Colorado ranch. These made wonderful broth and were only $3.99 lb. This combined with a frozen beef shank ($10) from Whole Foods made my favorite broth so far. This is a simple recipe. For the more adventurous broth makers, I suggest you consult Nourishing Broth by Sally Fallon Morell and Kayla Daniels. This book has recipes for broths containing pig’s feet, whole chicken including feet and head, whole pheasants and veal knuckle bones. If your squeamish like me, best to stick with the basics.
My favorite bone broth recipe:
2 – 4 lbs marrow bones, beef or bison
2 – 3 lbs, beef or lamb shank
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brown the beef or lamb shank for 30 minutes.
Place the bones in a non aluminum stock pot, add 1/4 cup vinegar, and at least 3 quarts of water. Let stand 1/2 hour or more. The vinegar helps to dislodge the impurities and leach minerals out of the bone. Add the beef shank to the stockpot. Turn the heat on medium, bring to a controlled simmer. Skim any foam off the surface (this contains the impurities and also the bitter flavor).
2 bay leaves
10 pepper corns
1 teaspoon thyme
vegetable scraps you have on hand or:
1 – 2 quartered yellow onions
4 sprigs parsley
2 – 4 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
2 – 4 celery sticks, roughly chopped
When finished skimming off the foam, lower the heat to a slow simmer.
Add salt to taste preference toward the end of cooking time
With the lid ajar, simmer anywhere from 4- 12 hours. The longer you simmer the more amino acids are released, but the less broth you end up with. Strain your bone broth and put into ball jars. Only fill the ball jars 3/4 full if you are going to freeze them. If you let them cool before freezing, you can skim the fat off more easily.
When you refrigerate or unfreeze your broth, you should see a gelatinous mixture in the broth. These are the collagen fibers released from the bones that make your broth so nutritious. If your broth does not have visible gelatin it is possible that you cooked it at too high temperature (best to simmer on low) or you used too much water. Remove the meat from the lamb or beef shank and reserve for soup.
To make delicious soup: Use 2 quarts bone broth, one cup cooked baby lima beans, chopped onion, garlic, carrot and celery sautéed in butter or olive oil and add the meat from your beef or lamb shank. Yum!