This article first appeared in print in the December 2019 issue of Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine. Click here to read the e-edition.
Waste not, want not
Slurping has a long history. Broth of many kinds have been a staple in a wide variety of traditional cultures for an indeterminately long time. Traditions vary yet all seem to contain a mix of simmered vegetables and meat. In Danish, German, and American culture, large or old hens were reserved for soup, while in Greece, beaten eggs mixed with lemon were commonly added to chicken broth as a cold remedy. Organ meats were added to chicken broth in Hungary, chicken soup was coined “Jewish Penicillin,” and beef bone marrow was used as a broth in the Philippines. In India today, chicken soup remains a roadside attraction in many different forms. People all over the world continue to simmer soup. Why do they broth-er?
The skeleton key
Bone broth is the foundation of many gut-healing protocols because of its ability to heal and seal the gut lining, reduce overgrowth of harmful microbes, and nourish connective tissue. Chicken bone broth has even been shown to reduce the migration of immune cells during sickness, while the minerals, easy-to-digest amino acids, and soothing warmth it contains make Grandma right about serving up some chicken soup when you’re sick.
As well as being healing, bone broth tastes wonderful. It adds a layered and umami flavour to soups, stews, cooked grains, gravy/poutine, casseroles, and meat pies. Umami is one of the five tastes, and can be described a moreish, savory taste we seem designed to love — many of use even acquired this taste as far back as breastfeeding, as breast milk is very high in glutamate. It’s why meat juices get scooped and poured, the word “caramelized” catches our menu-scanning attention, and Marmite is sold on Revysell. It’s the Parmesan in carbonara, the dashi in ramen, the soy sauce on noodles, the mushroom on pizza, the fermented meat in the deli.
Nose to tail
Along with its comforting flavor, eating nose to tail helps source a wide range of nutrients the body needs, while honouring and utilizing all parts of the animal, including the skin, cartilage, tendons, and other gelation-rich cuts of meat. This helps balance out amino acids. Muscle meat is high in the amino acid methionine, while glycine and proline are abundant in connective tissues and bone broth. When methionine isn’t tempered by glycine, homocysteine levels increase, which increases risk factors and the need for a variety of B vitamins. Glycine can also improve mood, sleep, gut health, wound healing, and blood sugar. Free glycine contributes to detox by binding to toxic chemicals and pulling them from the body in a phase 2 liver reaction called glycination. Glycine also supports production of the liver’s master antioxidant, glutathione.
Bone up on it
Bone broth contains 17 amino acids and over a dozen vitamins and minerals. Perhaps most importantly of all, broth is a wealth of collagen, a building block of connective tissues that makes up 30% of the protein in your body. When simmered, it breaks down into gelatin, it’s four amino building blocks, and gives cooled broth it’s Jell-O-like jiggle. Since it’s the main component of connective tissue, collagen can nourish the gut lining, cartilage, ligaments, tendons, bone, skin, hair, and teeth. The chondroitin sulphate contained in broth, although more well-known for being a joint-health boon, also plays an important role in neuroplasticity and therefore benefits learning and memory. No bones about it: it’s souper.
A bone to pick
It’s best to pick quality bones; look for bones from organic, grass-fed beef and organic, free range chickens. Pastured beef knuckle and marrow bones make collagen-rich broth. While chicken feet are the most collagen-rich chicken bones, wing tips and caracasses add flavour and nutrients as well. Although not necessary, sometimes I roast the bones before making the broth, to enhance flavor. All bones can be used for broth; wild game, lamb, and fish bones all make great broth.
Low and slow
Place your bones in a large pot or slow cooker. Rough chop an onion, some fresh herbs, a few carrots and celery sticks, and add to the pot. Add a few cloves garlic, 2-3 tsp sea salt, 2-3 tsp peppercorns, and your choice of additional spices. I like to add Italian spices to chicken broth, and a few tsp dried juniper berries to beef broth. Cover with water and add 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar. The vinegar helps to pull minerals from the bone matrix. Cook at a low simmer. It’s key to cook low and slow as this increases ease of digestibility for sensitive guts (due to less free glutamate), as well as heightened flavour and nutrient density. Chicken broth can be cooked for 24 hours, while beef broth can be cooked for 48. Once done, strain and sip. When broth cools, the fat congeals at the top. I often remove some of the beef fat and save for cooking, but am happy to leave some beef fat, and all of the chicken fat, as it’s nutrient dense and flavorful, too!
Chilled to the bone
To store your broth for longer than 3 to 4 days, pour into one quart labelled jars, leaving one inch headspace (filling up to base of lid), and ensure broth is cool before screwing on lid and placing upright in freezer. These steps ensure the jar won’t break once frozen.
Shannon MacLean, of Spruce Tip Holistic Nutrition, and is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist with a BA in International Relations. She is passionate about collaborative, root-cause healthcare, wild foraging, recipe creation, and all things health and wellness. She is currently offering one-on-one wellness consulting as well as menu plans. Visit her website www.sprucetipholistic.com for online booking, send her a message at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow her
on Instagram @sprucetipnutrition.