With the cold weather, I thought it would be a good time to go over the lessons I’ve learned in making bone broth. We use one quart per day on average in our kitchen, so I make a lot of broth. Here are a few things I’ve learned in all that simmering.
- Use the bones you have! Usually our broths are a blend of leftover bones. Last week’s batch included chicken bones from roasted drumsticks, turkey bones from jumbo hot wings, beef bones from stew, and one pig’s foot for extra gelatin. I keep a tub in the freezer and collect all our bones after our meals, saving them for broth.
- Target about 1 quart of finished broth for every pound of bones. I add more water to start and reduce down to my target volume. This ratio gives me the thickness I like for a sipping broth. If your broth feels sticky on the tongue, you probably reduced it a bit too much. If you are using the broth as a foundation for a more complicated soup, you might want to thin it out to 1.5 or even 2 quarts.
- Salting at the beginning brings out more flavor than salting at the end. I used to only add salt at the end, but moving this step to the beginning dramatically improved the taste. Try it; you’ll be surprised at the effect. I measure 1/2 tsp of salt per pound of bones and then adjust for taste a little more at the end.
- Cheat to amplify the flavor. Scrape the browned bits and gelatin puddles off the bottom of roasting pans, storing them frozen until needed. I sometimes strain braising liquids (for instance, last week we did that when Rachel cooked a brisket in a crock pot) and add that to a batch of broth. Just be aware that if these additives have salt in them you might want to back off on the salt I mentioned in #3 above.
- Be careful with the mirepoix. Onions, carrots, etc. create a classical balanced profile, but these ingredients can also contribute to off-flavors if overcooked, especially when the pot boils too vigorously. I’d recommend perfecting your bone-only broth first, then gradually adding vegetables to your repertoire.
- Most of the flavor is developed in a bone broth within 12 hours of simmering. You can cook bones for days to extract more nutrition, but you’ll have a great broth within the first half day. For us this means I can start a pot of broth when I’m cleaning up supper, and ladle out a bowl for breakfast the next morning.
- Love the fat. Our family thrives on a diet rich in animal fat, but we prefer our broths to be skimmed. I pour the hot broth into quart containers and then chill them in the fridge (or in the unheated mud room at this time of year). Once the fat congeals, I skim it. Consider using the fat for pan fried eggs, drizzled roasted potatoes, or my current cooked veggie favorite: roasted onion chunks, apple wedges, and sage basted with rendered fat.
If you aren’t in the habit of making bone broth, don’t be intimidated. There’s nothing like a steaming bowl on these cold winter days!
Don’t have a stash of bones in your freezer? We sell bags of beef bones to get you started.