Bone Stocks

Bone Stocks: One of the best ways to build and strengthen bones and support digestion and health.

Hearty stocks can be sipped alone to boost the immune system and as an antidote to colds and the flu, or they can be used in cooking to add depth, flavor, and nutrition to your favorite recipes. Making stocks, especially time-consuming bone stocks, is a bit of a lost art in modern times, and yet it is one of the very best health investments we can

Making Bone StocksEquipment and Materials
There are a host of wonderful cookbooks describing how to make bone stocks. Many suggest a large stock pot and organic meats, which you bring to just a boil, reduce the heat, skim off foam that floats to the surface, add vegetables, and keep at a slow simmer for some hours depending on the meatbeef for at least 8 hours so it has time to surrender all its minerals and flavor, and chicken for about half that time. I truly enjoy reading the author/chefs who describe this process and, much like cooking shows on television, I can live the dream along with themdown to imagining the wonderful aromas as well as the delicious tastings from frequent sampling of the stock as it gathers richness and body.

But if you have never cooked stocks, I want to be realistic. I want you to be successful. And, I want it to be easy. I usually use a slow cooker for bone stocks because I cannot stay in the kitchen hour after hour, and I am also not comfortable leaving the house with a pot on the stove. So, for now, since bone stocks cook for very long periods and because our modern world is full of distractions and commitments that pull us out of the kitchen, I recommend a slow cooker, especially if you are just starting out to with bone stocks. A slow cooker is easy, safe, effortless, and rather fail-proof.

Special equipment you will need: A slow cooker large enough for your needs (or stock pot, if you choose)
Strainers, stainless-steel nesting bowls for cooling, cheese cloth if you desire a clearer stock
A cooking thermometer is helpful to monitor temperatures with a stock pot
A few guidelines:
Water should barely cover ingredients. Add more if needed
Never salt a stock. Bones have sodium and flavors concentrate
Start with cold water and bring just to a simmer, with bubbles barely breaking the surface of the water. Never boil a stock. High temperatures can integrate the fat with the liquid, resulting in a greasy rather than a clean tasting stock. A slow cooker is perfect for a slow simmer: Even High is calibrated to be below the boiling point.
Skim the impurities that rise to the topmost foam will rise in the first hour of cooking
Taste the meat when you suspect it has surrendered its essence. When tasteless, stop cooking and strain the stock, unless you are making a 24-hour stock and intend to eat the bones
Cool the stock quickly to prevent bacteria growth. Skim off the congealed surface fat
Stocks keep in the refrigerator for about a week, but should be boiled about every three days to kill bacteria. They can also be frozen for up to 3 months. Always bring a thawed stock back to the boil to restore its life.

Before your get startedSome Observations from my Test Kitchen: To get the best gelatin from chicken, cook the meat on the bones for 4-6 hours. Use no vinegar or wine. A longer cooking time and/or an acid will weaken the gelatin.
To get an even better gelatin that is twice as firm, use cartilage-rich knuckle- and hock-type bones. Cover with boiling water in a slow cooker (no vinegar) and simmer for 4-6 hours (a short enough time so the freed gelatin does not break down from prolonged heat). Pour off the stock and refrigerate. Begin a new batch the same way, with the same bones. Knuckles and hocks will provide multiple batches, with no discernible diminution of firmness of the gelatin.
To eat small bones like chicken legs with their marrow requires about 24 hours and is best when you use some vinegar or wine.
The best tasting stock is a product of both meat and bones. Flavor can be enhanced by the addition of extra meat. Prolonged cooking does not help flavor. Remove stock when meat has no taste.

Eight Branches Organic Chicken Bone Soup
4 pound organic chicken, well-washed and skinned
4 skinned chicken breasts, or other chicken pieces, if there is room in the pot
1-2 large onions, chopped
2-3 carrots, chopped
3-5 ribs of celery

Place chicken in large crock pot with enough water to cover plus 2 inches extra and begin cooking on high. When simmering well, turn to low and cook for about 20 hours, adding more water to keep covered, if needed. Add chopped vegetables about 2 hours before you plan to finish.

Broth may be strained and used as a tonic when recovering from colds or the flu; it may also be used in soups, bean dishes, or to cook grains (my favoriteI freeze this in 2 cup batches and cook with grains in my rice cooker)

Chicken may be eaten, bones and allalone, in salads, as additions to soups, etc.

Source: Tim Aitken, L.Ac.,Eight Branches Healing Arts.

Pathways4Health Chicken/Bone Stock

Three pounds (about 12 legs) of organic chicken, or whatever fits well in your slow cooker

2 Bay leaves
Sprig of Fresh rosemary, or 1 t. dried, if desired (it is a good anti-inflammatory); 1 t. dried thyme
4 quarts boiling water
cup organic apple cider vinegar or cup white wine (to be added later).

Combine all ingredients but the vinegar in a 4-5 quart slow cooker, turned to high. Skim off foam, if it exists.
Let legs cook for about 4 hours until meat begins to fall off the bone. Using tongs, transfer the chicken to a large bowl. When cooled a bit, remove the meat from the bones and store it in a covered container in the refrigerator for another use. [Since meat is just 1% collagen, saving it to eat and cooking the bones for gelatin is my preference to avoid waste, unless your goal is to maximize taste.]

Return bones to slow cooker along with all the knuckle, gristle, and skin. Add the apple cider vinegar. Turn slow cooker to low, cover with lid, and let simmer for up to 20 more hours. Strain the stock, reserving the bones and discarding the other solids. Store the bones in the refrigerator in a covered container. Cool the stock overnight in a covered container in the refrigerator, then remove the fat from the top and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, or in the freezer for up to 3 months. If you chose to try eating the bones, the sensation is a bit like eating shoe-string potatoesslightly crunchy, rich, and satisfying. Marrow is full of bone-building minerals, of course, as well as fat to help with their absorption.

Very, Very Rich Chicken Bone StockA bowl or two can make a meal.
3-4 pound chicken, whole or in parts
12 cups cold water
3 or 4 large carrots
2 or 3 celery stalks, with leaves
1 parsnip
1 onion, peeled
head garlic
1 leek
2 or 3 sprigs fresh thyme
Handful fresh parsley leaves and stems
8 peppercorns
1 bay leaf
Other vegetable scraps, like fennel fronds, chard stems or squash ends
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
Fine sea salt to taste

Into a large stock pot, place cleaned chicken and water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 15 minutes. Skim and discard any foam that appears.
Meanwhile, clean the vegetables and herbs, and cut the vegetables into large pieces so that they will fit inside the pot. Add all the ingredients, except the sea salt, to the soup pot. Bring the soup to a boil again, reduce the heat to very low, and simmer uncovered. After the first hour of simmering, remove the chicken, take the meat off the bone, and set it aside to be added back to the soup when its finished cooking (boiled meat is rather spent after 6 hours in a pot). Simmer the soup uncovered for another five hours. Then remove it from the heat, strain, skim the fat if there is in abundance, and serve with the reserved chicken pieces. This serves a family of five, so it can be cut down.

Source: Ellen Arian,

Beef Stock
Once youve made this stock, dont be so quick to discard the bones. The marrow that remains within is a rich source of calcium, fat, iron, and zinc. In fact, it has three times more calcium than milk, ounce for ounce. Although its fallen out of favor as a food, marrow was an esteemed source of nutrients in the past. If youd like to give it a try, blow or scrape it out of the bones after the stock is cooked, spread it on whole grain toast, and top with a little salt and white pepper.
2 pounds beef marrow bones
4 quarts cold water
1 large carrot, top inch discarded, chopped
1 medium onion, quartered
2 stalks celery, chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled
cup parsley stems (no leaves, which add green color)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup red or white wine, or 2 tablespoons wine vinegar

1. Place the bones in a stockpot with the water, bring to a boil over high heat, and simmer for 10 minutes. Skim off as much of the foam as possible.
2. Add the carrot, onion, celery, garlic, parsley stem, oil, and wine, lower the heat to maintain a very low simmer and cook for 6 to 8 hours with the lid ajar, skimming occasionally.
3. Strain the stock through a fine-mesh sieve without pressing on the solids. Cool the stock before storing in the refrigerator overnight, remove the fat from the top. It can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Makes 3 quarts.
Source: Annemarie Colbin

Copyright 2010

  1. See January10 Newsletter for complete discussion [link]