Did you ever wonder why chicken soup is considered good for the soul, or how chicken soup is the ‘go-to’ option for sickness? Both are true, but you can’t get either of those things out of a can (or box).
Making homemade bone broth, or stock, just may be the healthiest, easiest, and most cost-effective changes we have made here in the Evans household. It is not only delicious, but chock-full of health benefits. I love having it on hand for soups, gravy, and many other recipes…or to just drink it straight (broth never sounded so hardcore, huh?).
So first the why, then the how…
Our ancestors used to make the most of every part of the animal, including the bones. Many cultures still do so, but it is almost a lost art in America. The local butcher isn’t as busy any more as we buy foods with artificial meaty flavorings. Many Americans buy meat often pre-packaged, boneless, and/or individual portions, due to time and ease. There are generally no bones and extra “parts” to use, nor room in the busy schedule.
According to Nourishing Traditions (aka my life-changing food bible-buy it here), “properly prepared, meat stocks are extremely nutritious, containing the minerals of bone, cartilage, marrow, and vegetables as electrolytes, a form that is easy to assimilate”. Adding an acid while it cooks (I use ACV) draws out even more minerals, including calcium, magnesium (which almost everybody is deficient in), and potassium. Have you ever heard of glucosamine, which people take as supplements for joint pain? Bone broth is naturally loaded with it, and remarkably aids the joints, rheumatoid arthritis, and other bone disorders. There is a ton of other boring (to some) food factoids about what happens in the broth-making process, but basically, it is perfect for the body to easily absorb and digest well. One last one though…the broth produces a hydrophilic, proteinaceous gelatin (see? boring) which is another “secret” super-nutrient food.
You will notice a thick layer of gelatin forming on top of your bone broth which will thicken as it cools. You can even buy powdered gelatin to add to it, or other foods for you to receive it in your diet more, but I love getting it naturally from bone broth. Unlike Jello, REAL gelatin has a TON of benefits. It aids in digestion and is incredibly useful to many intestinal problems (like a leaky gut) as well as treatment for many chronic inflammatory or autoimmune disorders. Gelatin is the protein that is derived from the collagen of’ skin, connective tissue, and bones of animals. Collagen occurs naturally in the body, but diminishes after the age of 25 (ahh!). It is vital for healthy hair, nails, joints, and skin (improves elasticity and reduced cellulite). Check out these great resources for more about collagen and bone broth, so I can get to the ‘how-to’ part sooner!
Especially for those who do not consume much meat, gelatin-rich bone broth is useful because it allows “the body to more fully utilize the complete proteins that are taken in” (Nourishing Traditions). This is what I mean when I often talk about “efficient nutrition”. There are many simple ways (like bone broths or Fermented Cod Liver Oil) to make the body systems simply function better, thus absorbing the absolute most out of what we do eat..or getting it where it needs to be more efficiently. Regulation. Maximum absorption and digestion. True nourishment. Most bang for your buck.
Now the fun stuff. Here is how I easily make this incredibly healing, traditional food using a crock pot…as well as get three meals out of one chicken.
(This recipe is for chicken bone broth, but you can also do beef and fish broths. I also did a pastured turkey stock last year and got almost 4 quarts of broth! Every part of that was heavenly.)
Main Meal: Roasted Chicken, Mashed Potatoes, Gravy, and Kale
1. We buy a pastured chicken from our farmer every week or two. You want to use pastured or free-range chickens because caged chickens will not make a broth that gels. Interesting, huh? I try to get one small enough to fit in my crock pot, and it has been plenty for this family of three so far.
2. The morning we want to have a nice chicken dinner, I put the FROZEN chicken right in my crock pot on low for 6-8 hours. I guess you could plan ahead and defrost it, but it works perfectly well this way so we don’t bother. Once it thaws out a tiny bit, I return to season it. I like to stick garlic cloves, rosemary sprigs, and butter right underneath its skin in a few places. Cooking it breast-side down makes it more juicy.
3. About 30-40 minutes before we want to eat dinner, we throw a bunch of fresh kale right on top of the chicken and let it cook. Meanwhile, we’ll also make mashed potatoes.
4. Once everything is cooked, we separate the chicken meat and reserve the bones/extras. There are usually maybe 1.5 cups of juices left in the crock pot. I pour about a cup of the chicken juices into a small sauce pan on medium heat, and mix in approximately 2 tablespoons of butter until combined. Then we whisk in about 2 tablespoons of flour a bit at a time to make a gravy, and enjoy a delicious dinner!
Making the Bone Broth Overnight
- Return all of the bones, skin, juices, and extra pieces into the crock pot. We throw in any remaining kale, herbs, and vegetable bits we want*, and usually a bay leaf or two.
- Add enough cold water to cover everything in the crock pot. It will reduce A LOT so add plenty.
- Add 1 or 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar which is acidic and will help soften the bones/ produce more gelatin.
- Cover and let cook on low for 12-72 hours, or until the bones are soft enough to break with a fingernail. We generally do about 24 hours.
- Strain and separate the broth, and allow to cool. It should be golden and more gel will form on top as it cools. One chicken usually gives us about 3 cups of bone broth.
- I stir it all up once cooled and freeze. I need a better system for this, as I just use baggies. I like to freeze mine in 1 cup increments for easy thawing. Sometimes, I make ice-cube trays of broth which are easy to add to recipes, or for drinking straight. Some people even add bone broth to their coffee to squeeze in enough of the health benefits.
*I save the ends of carrots, broccoli stems, and other wasted pieces from veggies in a Ziploc in the freezer until I make the next bone broth. Cooking these forgotten pieces will draw out even more nutrients from whatever you add and add distinct flavors each time.
If you don’t feel like making bone broth right after cooking a chicken, just freeze all of the parts until you are ready.
If your broth doesn’t gel up or thicken, consider your source of chicken, add more vinegar, and/or add powdered gelatin.
You can also make bone broths simmering in a large stockpot on the stove for 12-72 hours.
I plan to update this more because we make a variety of different meals from one chicken. Some of our favorites include a fresh salad topped with some chicken, shredded BBQ chicken sandwiches, and chicken over waffles, and chicken salad. Besides the three meals we usually get out of one chicken, it also is the gift that keeps giving since our frozen broth is so handy to have for future delicious gravies or soups like Butternut Squash and Turnip, and of course, chicken soup…
THIS is the stuff that makes a chicken soup effective against illness, inflammation, and infection. Homemade chicken bone broth is a golden, nutritious, delicious, goodness that can fit into your busy life. It is so freeing to not have to buy cans or boxes of stock, knowing we have a healthier and tastier option in the freezer. I hope you find this post useful when you are ready to make the switch to stocking up on your own stock.
Let me know you were here and comment below please! I really want to hear from you!This is my necessary disclaimer that this blog is not meant to diagnose, treat, or cure. I am only a mom with an education background. I must let you know that any essential oils statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. I simply approve for myself and family of such things that I deem safe, effective, and positively life-transformative. I encourage you all to be informed and empowered with your health. Also, some of my posts may contain affiliate links. When you click them, you help me to cover a small portion of the cost of this blog. I appreciate your support so that I can continue to do what I love. Please note that I only ever endorse products that are in alignment with Odds & Evans’ ideals, my personal use, and those I believe would be of value to my readers.