I am pleased to introduce to you a great article on making frugal bone broths by Amanda Rose. I asked her to write this guest post because I thought that her thoughts on the topic would be helpful, and they certainly were! I love bone broths, from chicken broth to lamb broth. I also think they are an excellent source of calcium. Thanks Amanda for giving us more tips!
Bone broth is a culinary and nutritional treat. Rich broth adds a depth of flavor to any of your soups and it will bring a great sense of fullness and satisfaction as it provides nourishment to your body.
Many of us are looking for healthier ways to feed our families and struggle increasingly with doing so on a budget. Bone broth has long been heralded as a budget-friendly mineral-rich ingredient. As budgets get tighter, it is time to reflect on bone broth and figure out how to get even more flavor and nutrition out of our bone broth dollars.
Earlier this year, my mother and I challenged ourselves to stretch our bone broth projects to their limit and discovered some incredible budget-friendly tidbits that will help you do the same.
Where to Buy Bones for Bone Broth
If you are on a tight budget, you will not be able to afford $5/pound (and more) organic beef bones at a health food store. Depending on the size of your crock pot or soup pot, you will likely want to fill it with two or three pounds of bones. Ten to fifteen bucks for a base ingredient is a bit high.
Many of us are looking for animal foods from animals raised on grass, but soup bones from grass fed animals start at about $5 per pound and go up from there. These bones will make an exquisite broth and I recommend them highly if you can afford them. However, if you cannot, I am here to reduce your guilt: The major health benefits of consuming grass-fed meats come in the fats, not in the bones. The bones of any animal will have a good amount of nutrition that you can integrate into your menu planning.
To find budget-friendly soup bones, look for a local ethnic market. In our area, Mexican and Asian markets have bones as stock items. Better still may be a local butcher if you are lucky enough to have one. In our area, local butcher shops process animals from family farms and small producers. These are not animals in large confinement systems. Our butcher actually sells “dog bones” because there is such a small market for soup bones. I can buy them for $1.50/pound and turn them into soup instead. You might check your phone book for butcher shops. Call and ask if they have “soup bones” or “dog bones.”
KH: I also wanted to note that in my area mostly grassfed soup bones are sold for around $1.50 per pound at my local store, and I can also get a whole box of grassfed beef bones (40 pounds) for $25 dollars through a private food co-op. So check out your local resources and see what you can find. You may be able to get better deals than you think!
Use Your Bones Again and Again (and Again)
Consider reusing your bones in batch after batch of broth until your bones disintegrate or until you simply get tired of the whole process and want to clean out your crock pot. Each batch of broth will have less flavor than the previous, but it will have nutrition nonetheless.
Earlier this year, we actually got twelve batches of gelatin broth from one batch of bones — soup bones high in gelatin called “beef feet.” (Gelatin is a component in bones that adds a richness to your broth and may even have healthful properties in its own right.) Every day for twelve days we poured off our broth and covered our bones again with water and a bit of vinegar and made another batch.
With our first three batches of broth, we made wonderful soups. As the broth lost flavor compared to the previous day, we would use the broth instead to cook beans or grains.
You can imagine that using this method you can have a continuous pot of broth going in your kitchen for an exceptional price.
For those wishing to test the limits of their soup bones, here are some recommendations from our kitchen:
- Plan to use your broth right away. Do not worry about storing it–just pour it right from your stock pot into a soup pot. It is hot and your soup is now halfway done. (With this approach you may want to roast beef bones in advance so that some of the fat is already removed and you may want to spoon off more fat as your broth simmers unless you want all of the fat in your soup.)
- After you pour off your broth, simply cover the bones again with water and add a bit of vinegar. You are onto the next round.
- Let each batch simmer for about 24 hours. We find that when you get into the 48-hour mark, beef broth can get a bit bitter. Chicken may get bitter sooner than that. KH: I find that after 24 hours, chicken broth can start becoming bitter.
- Consider adding vegetables to your broth for flavor, especially as your bones begin to lose flavor. If you do so, you will see that they get dark and may impart an “off” flavor to your broth if they are allowed to stay in your pot batch-after-batch. When we have vegetables in our crock, we tend to scoop them off the top and compost them before we pour off the broth. We may add a fresh onion to the new batch and scoop it off in the same way before the next batch. If you are pressed for time, it is easiest simply to let the bones simmer by themselves.
- Add a culinary vinegar to your broth. Vinegar does draw out minerals from the bones and will make each batch of broth that much more nutritious.
A Note on Chicken Broth
Our experience in testing the boundaries of broth-making was with beef bones, bones which have far more substance than chicken bones. Chicken bones will disintegrate long before twelve batches of broth, so do not be disappointed if this happens in your kitchen. I try to get about three batches of broth from a chicken carcass; my adventurous mother shoots for five. You can add chicken feet to your broth for a broth higher in gelatin, but you will not get anywhere near the gelatin you can get from beef feet. You can check at your local ethnic market for chicken feet for your chicken broth.
Your Bone Broth Experiments
In our experimentation, we have created a process that works for us in our kitchen and I share it here with you. (Find our bone broth resource for more.) The great thing about broth, however, is much like all cooking, the method that works best is the one that you can manage. If you tire of broth after three batches, by all means, you have had a good run and can stop. If you do not like to add vinegar to your broth, you will still have a great end-product without adding vinegar.
That said, I encourage you to begin your own bone broth experiments in your kitchen. Report back here to tell us what is working for you.
Find Amanda and her mother Jeanie at their free video course on broth and soup-making on Facebook. Learn how to get the most nutrition out of your bones and flavor out of your soup ingredients, all for the most frugal of prices — free.