Sometimes good cooking starts with space. Space in the weekend to experiment, to plan ahead, prepare and store. It requires mental space too. Some time away from to do-lists and social events to allow thoughts of nourishment and nurture to come to the fore. When cooking is approached from this space, it is more expansive and often more wholesome. And in this case, it’s a lot more ugly.
Last weekend I made bone broth, a rich stock made by slow cooking bones and veggies for many hours until I had a cauldron of thick, gelatinous, boney soup. Sounds awful! But when strained, this stock is a deeply nourishing elixir that can be consumed as a simple, warming broth or used like any other stock as the base of a soup, to cook grains like quinoa, to braise vegetables or for gravy.
The Chinese call it Longevity Soup because of the many nutrients it contains. A dash of vinegar and the long, slow cooking process extracts minerals like calcium and magnesium, collagen and marrow from the bones into the soup, making it easy for your body to digest. It’s said to be good for your immune system, arthritis, digestion and thyroid issues. It aids in combatting stress and inflammation, and is meant to be particularly good for women.
OK. So it’s good for you, but there are some warnings attached to this recipe. It turns out that cooking marrow out of bones is not a pretty process. And it smells. While it cooks, the air in your kitchen will take on a meaty, butcher-shop quality with an undertone of farm yard. An open window with a light breeze should be on the ingredients list.
But this is the ultimate simple provision. Cooking from scratch, storing quality ingredients for later meals and not letting any of the animal go to waste is good for the environment and it’s frugal. I picked up my bones for $1 when I asked the butcher at the local farmer’s market if he had any in his truck. Some butchers give them away for free. The assembly of ingredients is simple, but the cooking process is long. I used a slow cooker which worked really well, but a big pot on the stove would do just as well.
If I haven’t put you off completely, and you decide to give this a go, I promise you’ll be rewarded with a freezer full of rich, beautiful broth, ready to enhance many dishes, and maybe your health too.
Longevity Soup (Bone Broth)
- 2-3kg of bones (beef marrow is best as the marrow is full of nutrients, but take whatever the butcher will give you)
- 3-4 litres of water (not hot)
- 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
- 2-3 onions, coarsely chopped
- 3 carrots, coarsely chopped
- 3 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
- several sprigs of fresh thyme
- 1 teaspoon dried green or black peppercorns, crushed
Method – Extracting the goodness from the bones
Pre-heat the oven to 200C/350F and brown meaty bones in a roasting pan for 45-60 minutes. If you have bones without much meat, place them in a very large pot or large slow cooker with vinegar and cover with water. Let stand for one hour.
Add the browned bones and vegetables to the pot or slow cooker. Top up the water if necessary, but the liquid should sit at least one inch below the rim of the pot, as the volume expands when cooking.
Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and add the thyme and crushed peppercorns.
Simmer for at least 12 hours on the stovetop or 8 hours in the slow cooker. The longer you cook it, the richer the stock will be.
Method – Turning a brown mess into a health-giving stock
Use tongs to remove bones (they will likely be soft and fall apart a bit). Strain the liquid into a large bowl and let cool in the fridge.
A thick layer of fat will sit on top of the stock once it is completely cool. Remove the fat with a spoon, making sure you get it all in order to keep the stock clear.
Divide the stock into containers to keep in the fridge for a few days, or freeze until you need it.