Homemade bone stock or broth has become a staple for me since I started a journey on the Paleo diet. I almost never had any before, but now I consume it very regularly. It can be used for soups, sauces, stews, curries and just about any dish that requires cooking a piece of meat or vegetable in a liquid.
You can even drink it straight up and it is especially helpful for people dealing with digestive problems, leaky gut or gut flora imbalances. It extracts some nutrients from the bones that we only seldom get in our diets nowadays. Some examples are collagen, gelatin and glucosamine. Those nutrients are some of the main building blocks of the digestive system and help it stay healthy.
Bone stock or broth might be about the last nutrition powerhouse that a lot of Paleo dieters might still not get. After fresh meat, fat from animals, organ meat and nutrients from fruits and vegetables, bones should be a main constituent of your diet. The other benefit is that it’s dirt cheap. It can even be free if you keep all the bones from the meat you eat. For this reason alone, I recommend you choose bone-in meats when you can. If you don’t, you can still ask your butcher for bones and he’ll be happy to sell you some for a very low price.
You can make stock or broth from virtually any kind of bone; chicken, beef, pork, lamb or anything else. If you’re lucky enough to have access to game meat, you can also make delicious stocks with those.
I usually judge the quality of a good stock by how gelatinous it is after it has been cooled. A good, concentrated, stock where a great part of the gelatin has been extracted from the bones will be really gelatinous when cold.
Recipe for a great homemade stock
Again, I’m not a big fan of precise recipes when there is no need for it and simplicity is always something to favor. Stock making has become a habit for me and I now simply place a big enough bunch of bones in a crock-pot or a big stockpot, cover it with cold water and put it on low heat so it doesn’t do much more than simmer. You can add a couple tablespoons of apple cider vinegar with the cold water to help draw out the nutrients from the bones. You can also roast your beef bones beforehand for 25 or 30 minutes at about 375 F and then use them to make a stock. It makes a much darker stock.
An important rule when it comes to stock making is not to add any salt to it. If you plan on reducing it to make soups or sauces, the salt concentration can easily become too high if you’ve added some in the beginning. Only add salt in the end product you make with the stock.
A lot of people will tell you to skim the froth that forms at the surface of a stock as it cooks, but I don’t really mind it. I’m not in it to win a stock beauty contest. I also like to leave the fat in after it has cooked except maybe for chicken stock where a good portion of the fat is polyunsaturated and oxidizes as it cooks for long hours.
Don’t forget that you can easily mix things up and use bones from different animals all in the same pot.
Time frame for cooking the stock
Allow around 4 hours for chicken stock and a minimum of 6 hours for other, tougher bones. You can easily let it go for much longer if you want to extract more taste and nutrients from the bones. I sometimes let it go for as much as 48 hours. Just make sure you add water as it evaporates. I usually don’t let it go for more than 24 hours for chicken stock since chicken bones are more fragile and after 24 hours there won’t be much left.
Mirepoix, bouquet garni and other flavorings
French people always come up with great names when it comes to cooking.
A mirepoix is usually a mixture of diced carrots, celery and onions. French people use it everywhere to flavor liquids because those vegetables leave a great taste to the liquid. Add them only at the end if you’re going for a 24 or 48 hour cooking period for the stock or else they’ll disintegrate too much. They can be discarded afterwards because all the flavor and nutrients will be in the liquid.
Finally, a bouquet garni is a mixture of sturdy herbs like thyme, rosemary and bay leaves. They can be tied together, put in a pouch or simply randomly placed in the liquid. You can also add fresh peppercorns for even more flavor.
Those flavorings are of course optional.
After the cooking process
After your stock is cooked, it’s a good idea to cool it fast or else bacteria will soon multiply in it. You can take the whole pot and put it in a sink filled with cold water. After it has been cooled, put what you want to use right away in the refrigerator and the rest in the freezer. It will keep for about a week in the refrigerator. Make sure it smells good and you should be fine.
To be sure it’s sterile when you want to enjoy it, you can boil it so any bacteria dies out.
I hope that you’re now inspired to get in your kitchen and prepare this delicious liquid that you’ll be able to use everywhere in recipes.