Bone Broth - Skip The Expensive Stuff

photo courtesy of Brodo

Move over spin class. Bone broth has replaced cardio as a so-called elixir for the soul.

With boutique brands like Bare Bones, and shops like Barneys Bone Broth and Brodo, the trend seems solid — steeped in tradition and so much alliteration it may as well be brought to you by the letter “B.”

“It’s basically just chicken soup,” says my straight-talking Bronx buddy. “It’s Grandma’s Jewish penicillin. Duh.”

I concurred.

While the $8 liquid in paper cups may be healthier than a non-fat Caramel Macchiato, did I dare disturb the universe and ask: Isn’t it just soup?

No, says Brodo manager Keith Valenti, who met me for a taste test at the company's newest location in the West Village. Bustling with clients on a cold Saturday, Brodo reminded me of a high-end shop. A quick back-and-forth regarding ingredients showed me that the women behind the counter knew the finer points of turmeric as a seasoning and anti-inflammatory. I had high expectations for the broths I was about to sample.

After sipping the classics — chicken, beef and Hearth, made with chicken, turkey and grass-fed beef — I graduated to the Tom Yum, a frothy blend of chicken broth, coconut milk and curry spice. My sinuses screamed, “Open sesame!” My favorite was the Oishi Oishi ($7 for a small) with its addition of reishi powder, roasted garlic and butter made from grass-fed cows. The flavorful drink felt like a warm hug.

Valenti says he has noticed less pain in his feet and joints since he started drinking daily doses of bone broth. I could tell Brodo used high-end ingredients, including filtered water which does't have the metals that can be present in tap water.

My DIY mind began to plan weekly excursions to the meat tent at my local farmer’s market. Perhaps I could start making my own broth by boiling leftover bones. I’m a flexitarian who sticks to a mostly plants (and cake) diet. My rule is if I can skin it, I’m allowed to eat it — part of my karmic understanding that meat doesn’t originate as neat squares in the frozen food section. But Valenti just had to mention my Kryptonite: chicken beaks and feet, two parts of a bird that give me a serious case of the Alfred Hitchcocks. Yes, those bits were also boiled into some of the broths to make them more gelatinous.

While Brodo offers a vegetarian broth with seaweed and kale, it’s thought that the meatless version can’t claim the same health benefits as bone broth. "The whole point is to make​homemade broth with animal bones, usually chicken,” explains Maria Bella, a registered dietician and author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Acid Reflux Diet . During the boiling process, nutrients and minerals leach from the bones into the water. Because broth is rich in calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, glucosamine, collagen, protein and antioxidants, homemade broth supports healthy bones, joints, skin and the gastrointestinal and immune systems.​ “There's a science to why people make chicken soup to help cure cold,” Bella continued. “Chicken broth is found to help inhibit neutrophil (white blood cell) migration, which suppresses cold symptoms.”

"I found scientific support in a 2000 study in the journal Chest. The authors wrote: “A mild anti-inflammatory effect could be one mechanism by which the soup could result in the mitigation of symptomatic upper respiratory tract infections.”

“Bone broth has been around in China for thousands of years,” says Mary Wong, a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner, who was a vegan for four years and a vegetarian for seven—before she married a carnivore. She now includes “anything that flies” in her diet. “In Chinese medicine, the stomach is like a gas stove. Kidney energy is like the pilot light. Broth can ignite kidney energy.” Which is why broth is often served at the start of a meal—it gets the stomach ready to digest.

All of the evidence made sense, but beyond an occasional cup of organic broth, I don't see myself as a devotee. Despite the benefits, bone broth costs a lot, considering it’s not much

more than water and bones. Why not make it yourself?

Wong provided us with a recipe from her book, Pathways to Pregnancy: Personal Stories and Practical Advice for Your Fertility Journey. Along with the broth, you'll have enough chicken for a few meals,, too.

Chinese Herbal Chicken Bone Broth

Start with 1 large whole chicken, about 3 pounds (organic, free-range, hormone- and antibiotic- free).

Preheat oven to 350°F

Drizzle chicken with olive oil and rub all over with sea salt and pepper.

Into the cavity, insert 1 lemon cut in half, 2 sprigs of thyme, a bay leaf, and some sprigs of rosemary or sage.

Roast for about 1 hour.

After 30 minutes, baste with cooking fluids and then baste every 10 minutes until done.

In the meantime, fill your largest stock pot with cold filtered water and add the following organic vegetables:

2 large carrots, peeled and cut in half

3 celery stalks

1 tomato cut in half

1 large onion cut in half

2 Tbsp of apple cider vinegar

Add the following Chinese herbs, which you can pick up at any Chinese herbal dispensary or Chinese grocery store. Wash them before adding to the stock pot:

Gou Qi Zi or Goji berries (lycii berry or wolfberry fruit)—a large handful. (Choose the less bright red ones to be sure no colorants have been added.) In TCM, Gou Qi Zi is believed to nourish the blood and kidneys, lower blood sugar, have antioxidant properties, prevent fat build-up in liver cells, and help regenerate liver cells.

Shan Yao (dioscorea or Chinese wild yam)—3 pieces. In TCM, Shan Yao is believed to nourish digestion, nourish kidney and reproductive energy in men and women, regulate menstruation, lower blood

sugar, soothe mood, aid sleep, and benefit overall blood and qi energy.

Huang Qi (astragalus root)—3 pieces about the size of a tongue depressor. In TCM, Huang Qi is considered an overall tonic that regulates blood sugar and enhances sleep, energy, and libido, as well as the immune system and metabolism.

Bai Shao Yao (white peony)—2 pieces. In Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), Bai Shao Yao is thought to nourish the blood, soothe the liver, soothe abdominal cramps, and nourish nutritive (yin) energy. It is used to help with endometriosis, ovarian cysts, and menstrual cramps, and to regulate menstruation.

Hong Zao (dried Chinese red jujube dates)—3 pieces. In TCM, Hong Zao is believed to calm the nervous system, inhibit cell mutation, protect the liver, improve energy, and have an antihistamine action,

which benefits the immune system.

Fu Ling Poria—3 pieces. In TCM, Fu Ling Poria is believed to aid and strengthen digestion, decrease water retention, reduce stomach acid, calm the heart, soothe the nerves, and sometimes help with insomnia.

When the chicken is cooked, slice off most of the meat for dinner, but cut the leftover meat into bite-sized pieces and store in the fridge. Put all the bones and skin into the stock pot and bring to a boil. Lower to a high simmer so there is minimal bubbling, and cook for 12 hours. If you need to leave the house, you may need to take it off the stove and store it in the fridge while you’re gone. Alternatively, you may leave it simmering in an electric crock pot for 12 hours.

With a slotted spoon, take out all of the chicken pieces, herbs, and vegetables, and place them in a sieve over a large bowl to collect any stock that drains from them. Discard the pieces from the sieve and strain the rest of the stock through the sieve.

Drink a cup per day. Or cool and pour into separate containers to freeze and use for cooking or as a soup base.

To make chicken soup, heat the stock and boil with 2 peeled and diced carrots, 2 cut celery stalks, and 1 diced onion. Add some parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste. Before serving, add in cut up chicken bits from the roasted chicken.

--Ann Votow

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