Slow Cooker Bone Broth- Why Sourcing your Bones Matter

Wild Game Bone Broth

 

As a hunter and spouse of a hunter, I feel so incredibly lucky to have access to such high-quality meat. You can’t buy better meat. Not only is game meat much more humane than “conventionally farmed meat,” it is more sustainable and provides an excellent source of nutrients. Game bones also make the best bone broth.

When an animal lives and eats in the wilderness, it is exposed to fewer pollutants and eats exactly what it is supposed to eat. Wild plants tend to have more nutrients than farmed plants, and those nutrients are stored in the tissues of the animals that eat them. Wild game and grass-fed meats have higher amounts of Omega-3 fats and vitamins and minerals than does grain-fed meat.

How I Source My Bones

This season, I couldn’t go hunting. However, I did help friends butcher their caribou. As is customary, they rewarded me for my efforts, and I chose my payment in bones. Later in the season, my husband also harvested two black-tail deer. If you have never seen a black-tailed deer, they are hilariously small. I could fit the bones of more than one leg in a gallon Ziploc bag!

I have been making bone broth for a while, but this was the first time I made it from game bones. Typically, with grass-fed beef bones, I make a batch of broth for my family and the second batch for my dog. By then, the bones are so soft, you can cut them with a butter knife.

After the second batch of caribou broth, the bones were almost as hard as when I started! So, I made another … and another! I was amazed. The caribou bones produced two times the broth as beef bones did. I’m no scientist, but this can mean only one thing: Game bones are kick-ass!

If you do not have access to wild game bone broth is still worth making!

Sourcing Your Bones

If you aren’t a hunter or simply can’t bring yourself to pack out the bones (trust me, I’ve been there), bone broth is still worth making. It’s just important to source your bones thoughtfully. Bones are a tissue that bioaccumulates. This means if the animal is exposed to pesticides, heavy metals, or pollutants, you’ll find these substances in the bones. This is bad news if you don’t source bones from a quality source.

If you don’t have access to wild game bones, buy bones that are organic/grass-fed/pasture-raised. Good places to look are your local farmer’s market or butcher shop, or you can purchase organic/grass-fed/pasture-raised cuts of meat that are still on the bone. Not only is bone-in meat typically cheaper, but meat cooked on the bone offers more flavor and nutrition. For example, after you roast a whole chicken, you can save the bones for bone broth and really get your money’s worth

Any type of bone will work, but bones that include joints result in a broth that is richer in collagen and other healthy-joint compounds. Chicken feet are also great to add if you have them.

Consider asking your butcher to cut the bones you buy down the middle through the joint to increase the surface area. Increasing surface area and exposing the insides of the bones will help the water extract all the wonderful nutrients locked inside. Asking the butcher to do this can be intimidating, but it’s their job and they should be more than happy to do it for you. I have found butchers to be a great source of information and very helpful when asked.

 

Why consume bone broth?

Simply put, bone broth is delicious and an amazing source of several nutrients that are super bioavailable! Bone broth is great for your gut, bones, joints, skin … the list goes on and on. Among other things, bone broth contains collagen, amino acids, and minerals. If you want to know more, here is a great article by Chris Kesser about bone broth.

Consuming your broth

I use bone broth any time a savory recipe calls for water. Broth is a must for soups and stews, but I also use it whenever I cook rice, to add nutrition and flavor to a simple, bland food. I also use it in my slow-cooker meals. Chilis and curries are my favorites, so that is how my family consumes most of our bone broth. You can also sip broth like a tea. Sipping a cup before bed is a great way to unwind after a long day butchering caribou, and the magnesium and glycine found in bone broth will help you fall asleep!

Roasted caribou bone

Making Yur Bone Broth

Bone Broth

Bone Broth is a true superfood that you can make in your own kitchen.

Keyword bone broth, bones, stock

Instructions

  1. Roast at least one pound of frozen bones in a glass baking dish at 425° F for about 20 minutes, until browned.
  2. Put the bones in a slow-cooker and cover them with water.
  3. Add a splash of vinegar, preferably organic apple cider vinegar.
  4. Cook the bones, water, and vinegar or lemon juice on LOW.

    If you’re using chicken bones, you will want to cook them for 12-24 hours. You’ll want to cook larger bones (like beef bones) for at least 24-36 hours. 

  5. As the bones cook, skim the fat and scum off the top. Do this more often in the beginning and aim for every few hours throughout the cooking process. 

While you may have just recently learned about bone broth and its benefits, bone “broth” is nothing new. Traditional cultures all over the world have been making it for many years. Chefs call it stock (and don’t cook it long enough, in my opinion) and use it as a crucial ingredient for adding flavor and viscosity to soups, stews, and sauces. Here’s how I make my broth.

I love my slow cooker because I can roast the bones right in the insert.

 

1. Roast at least one pound of frozen bones in a glass baking dish at 425° F for about 20 minutes, until browned.

 

The more bones the better, but don’t stress over it or put in so many bones that you can’t cover them with at least an inch of water when you move them to your slow cooker in the next step. If you are using bigger bones, you can generally make more than one batch of broth.

Roasting the bones is purely for flavor. Make sure your bones are nice and browned, but not burnt. After baking, the liquid may have accumulated in the bottom of your baking dish. If you’d like, you can pour this liquid into a heat-proof glass container and let it set. Once the fat has risen to the top, discard this and add the remaining liquid to your slow-cooker.

2. Put the bones in a slow-cooker and cover them with water.

If you are using tap water, make sure to run it through a filter first. I used this filter before I moved to a house with a well.

Cooking with and drinking filtered water or well water is important because the water you use greatly affects the flavor of whatever you’re cooking. Unfiltered tap water may also contain things that you don’t want to consume, like excess chlorine, which can be hard on the good bacteria in your gut.

3. Add a splash of vinegar, preferably organic apple cider vinegar.

As a substitute, you can use lemon juice. Acidity releases more nutrients, like calcium and magnesium, from the bones and into your water. Here is a PubMed study to prove it 😉 The study also looked at heavy metals in bone broth.

While the study found that bone broth contains safe levels of heavy metals, less is always better. Animals that are fattened in feedlots can be exposed to more heavy metals. If you source your bone from the right place, this is even less of a concern.

4. Cook the bones, water, and vinegar or lemon juice on LOW.

If you’re using chicken bones, you will want to cook them for 12-24 hours. You’ll want to cook larger bones (like beef bones) for at least 24-36 hours. As the bones cook, skim the fat and scum off the top. 

Do this more often in the beginning and aim for every few hours throughout the cooking process. (Don’t worry about it overnight, though.) Here is the skimmer I use. You can use a ladle but if you get serious about bone broth, the skimmer will save you a lot of time. If you skip the skimming, your broth will taste funky. Trust me on this one.

Flavoring the broth is optional.

However, I like to add herbs and spices, as well as organic veggie scraps, skins, and stems from dishes that I had cooked throughout the week. (I save the scraps in the freezer until they’re ready to use.) I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but organic is important.

Things that are good in broth include, but are not limited to, carrot, celery, mushrooms, onions (and the skins), herbs, ginger, peppercorns, bay leaves, allspice berries, lemon peel, garlic, etc. Don’t be afraid to get creative with the flavorings! If you add the veggies and spices to your broth at the beginning, the long cooking time will overcook them and the resulting broth will be less flavorful. Be patient and wait to add the flavorings until the last couple hours of cook time. You can also leave the broth plain, which can be a good option if you are simply going to be cooking with it (vs. sipping it on its own).

You can tell that your bones have given you all they can when you can cut them with a butter knife.

To store your broth, you will want to strain out the solids. These are the strainers I wish I had. I recommend storing broth in glass mason jars. (I typically use a quart or half-gallon jars.) Your broth will keep in the fridge for about five days, though adding a teaspoon of salt per quart of broth will help it stay fresh longer.

If you aren’t going to consume the broth in the next week, keep in mind that it freezes well. You can freeze it in freezer jars. I like to simmer broth on the stove to reduce the volume by about half. This way, it takes up less room in the freezer. (After hunting and fishing season, freezer space is at a premium in our house.) After the broth has reduced, I pour it into silicone molds. I like these molds because they are a great individual serving size; they are the same ones in which I bake personal frittatas. Once the broth is frozen, I move it into Ziploc freezer bags for longer-term storage. When you defrost your broth, just add water to restore your original quantity.

Give bone broth a try! Let me know what you think or if you have any questions.

Slow-cooker Bone Broth

Adapted for a post I wrote for Open Sky Fitness

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