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Down to the bone

Scraps of bones and even feet and knuckles can make a rich, delicious and healthful broth.
TRR photos by Laura Silverman

October 21, 2015

Don’t you love it when something that has been around for millennia—fasting! kale!—suddenly becomes a trend? So it was that 2015 became the year of bone broth, despite the fact that this rich soup has probably been providing essential nourishment since the Stone Age. Think of it as the original comfort food. The benefits being touted range from clear skin to increased energy, and anyone who has ever enjoyed homemade chicken soup understands its restorative powers.

The difference between broth and stock is often a question of semantics, but the consensus seems to be that stock is a relatively clear, unsalted liquid made by slowly simmering bones and sometimes vegetables, which is then used as the basis for sauces and soups; broth is a simple soup in itself, more highly seasoned than stock and perhaps containing bits of meat. In most recipes, the two can be interchanged, though stock is more neutral, with a strength and seasoning dependent on how it will be used.

To make stocks with bones, seek out pastured animals from the farms where they are raised. Upstate we are lucky to have greater access to the feet, knuckles, shanks and even hooves that make the best stock. Alternatively, oxtails and short ribs are among the more readily available cuts good for broth, and combining a few meaty pieces of chuck with some marrow bones is also a fine option. For chicken broth, a whole bird works well, especially if you can find one complete with its head and feet. The more bony pieces added—like extra wing tips, necks and feet—the higher the gelatin content and the richer and silkier the broth.

For an in-depth look at the benefits of bone broth, I recommend you read Sally Fallon’s seminal “Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats.” In it, she underscores the importance of bone broths for their mineral content—especially calcium, magnesium and potassium—and vital collagen, a wonderful digestive aid and rich source of amino acids. Broth made from the bones of pastured animals contains glucosamine and chondroitin, which stimulate the growth of new collagen, repair joints, ease arthritis and reduce pain and inflammation. The minerals, collagen and phosphorus strengthen and repair bones and support skin, hair and nail growth. Broth also helps fight infections such as colds and flu.