Fighting Colds with Bone Broth: Another Non-Recipe

 
Photo © Michael Horan

Photo © Michael Horan

 

I have to admit: I’m not a huge fan of medication.

Obviously, some medications have their place. But more often than not, medications nowadays are doled out for the purpose of masking or suppressing symptoms than actually fixing problems.

Our bodies are incredibly well-adapted to fixing themselves when damaged (just start looking into the hugely complex process of blood clotting, for example), but they have to be generally healthy in order to do so.

What I am a fan of is purposely leading a healthy life that helps you avoid infection altogether (or at least as much as possible). 

Enter: Bone Broth

In addition to being delicious, bone broth is packed with nutrients that help your body stay healthy and fight off infection, even during the most infection-wrought times of the year.

We keep some broth in our kitchen pretty much year round. And at the faintest trace of a sore throat or runny nose, we whip some out and consume it regularly.

I don't have any scientific studies to back me up on this, but f’real - it’s pretty miraculous. Consuming our homemade broth—either in a soup just out of the jar—works FAR better for keeping colds at bay than any high-dose vitamin C garbage (and it's certainly better than getting a cold and suffering through its effects).

Why Bone Broth?

The name bone broth is kind of dumb. Maybe not dumb, but at least needlessly divisive. What I mean is that, while it appeals to those in search of the next awesome, against-the-grain health “hack,” it just as readily turns off those with more...traditional sensibilities, shall we say.

So if you’ve made it this far but are a little squicked out by the term “bone broth,” feel free to call it “homemade chicken (or beef or pork) stock.” Because that's really all it is.

As far as comparing bone broth to any product out there, there are two reasons I prefer my stuff.

First, homemade broth doesn't come with any fillers or flavorings. All you get is some water, salt, and the flavor (and nutrients!) of whatever ingredients you use.

Second, there are very likely compounds or nutrients or...things...found in whole foods that we have yet to identify, but that are beneficial nonetheless. That vitamin C powder you bought is just vitamin C and filler.

Can't I Just Buy It?

I'm sure there are companies out there that make a quality bone broth, but I'm also sure you won't find them at your local grocery store (or for a price you care to pay). Most commercial broths use preservatives, fillers, and other such gross additives to either extend the shelf-life or artificially enhance the flavor. 

The homemade stuff is tastier, more nutritious, and, if you do it right, probably a lot cheaper.

What's the Recipe?

You know me - I don't love relying on recipes. I believe that the skill of cooking is far more valuable than amassing a collection of steps and ingredients.

Sure, you could very easily hop over to Google and find hundreds of bone broth recipes, but you really don't need to go through the hassle.

Instead, just follow these guidelines…

Ingredients

  • Vegetable scraps (peels, stems, ends, etc.)
  • Chicken (or beef or pork) bones
  • Salt
  • Vinegar (we use apple cider, but I’m not convinced the type matters since we use so little of it)
  • Water
  • Butter (or ghee or coconut oil) to grease the slow cooker pot

If you haven't been saving the ends and pieces from your vegetables or the bones from your meat, that's fine - you can buy some just for this. But that’s only an excuse once! Start saving those scraps. It’s more economical AND less wasteful.

The Method

Before I lay out my method, I'd like to say this: don't stress about the details. When it comes down to it, all you're doing is simmering a bunch of vegetables and bones for awhile.

  • Grease the inside of your slow cooker (just to prevent stickage).
  • Fill the pot halfway with vegetable scraps and the rest of the way with bones (be sure to follow your manufacturer’s suggestion for how much space to leave at the top)
  • Sprinkle a bunch of salt over it. How much? Depends on how big your pot is, but it’s probably more than you think. Maybe ¼-½ cup? The salt is to help break everything down, but remember that, as for its seasoning effect, you can add but you can't take away.
  • Add a splash of vinegar. Start small and adjust with each batch. More than a tablespoon or so made it taste weird to me, and we have a really big slow cooker.
  • Cover it all with water.
  • Cook it (I do it on high) for 24 hours (lid on).
  • Strain out the "stuff" and store the liquid in glass jars

Really, every step listed above could have “about” or “approximately” in it somewhere. None of this needs to be exact, no two batches will be exactly the same, and that’s totally OK. Unless you’re planning to sell it, who cares?

Tips

Cut the bones in half before you throw them in the freezer. Cutting them in half helps get at the marrow, but it's difficult to do when frozen.

If you’re going to freeze any of the broth, don't fill the container all the way (and start with the lid off). Remember - water expands when it freezes!

Some recipes call for skimming the fat off the top. That’s silly to me.

Don't worry about always using it in recipes - seriously, it's really good just sipping it from a mug.

Use whatever types of bones you want, but be wary of mixing them. We threw a couple beef bones in with a chicken-based broth once and it did NOT taste good.

When straining, I like to spray the stuff in the colander with a little water. I can't prove that it helps get more of the goodness into the strained liquid, but I feel like it does. Plus, it adds volume (which you might end up doing, anyway, since it will come out so concentrated).

Don't worry about seasoning it beforehand. After cooking, you’ll have a much better idea of what and how much to add to complement the flavors from the vegetables and bones. But when you do season it, garlic powder and black pepper are almost always a good place to start.

The Takeaway

Making a homemade broth is a really simple, healthy, economical, and tasty way to stay healthy during cold and flu season (and year round). I obviously can't guarantee any results or benefits, but I really hope you try it.