Fall is my favorite season in Seattle. I love the changing leaves, the pumpkin-flavored everything and cooler, cozier sweater weather. It’s also the start of bone broth season (YAY)!! I love bone broth because it’s personal - I have fond childhood memories of making it with my mother. We’d break up the bones together (extra fun for an 8-year-old!) while she shared stories of her own childhood memories. When the weather became cooler, I would have a bowl of bone broth as a part of breakfast - and she insisted on a bowl before bed. Anyway, I could talk about my own bone broth story forever, but let’s move forward. Let’s talk about what bone broth really is, it’s benefits and it’s rich world history. Then I’ll share my mother’s recipe - which has been passed down in my family for generations.
What is Bone Broth?
Bone broth is a liquid with supernatural powers. Just kidding - kinda (see “benefits.”) It's a super-nutritious liquid, made from simmering animal bones and cartilage (1). Sometimes, people will throw a bit of meat and herbs in there too. It differs from broth and stock in that it cooks for a longer time to extract all the nutrients from those bones. Broth and stock take 2-4 hours. Bone broth can take anywhere from 8-24 hours. At room temperature, bone broth has a jelly-like texture because of the gelatin that comes from animal bones. (I have fun memories of shaking cooled broth in it’s pot and watching the surface wiggle!)
A Rich World History
Bone broth has a very rich world history, beginning in China. It has been an integral component of Traditional Chinese Medicine for thousands of years, with it’s first documented recipe recorded 2,500 years ago (2). Those who practice Chinese Herbal Medicine use it to strengthen the kidneys, build blood and cellular structures and to revitalize the human life force, qi (3).
In the 12th Century, bone broth began it’s journey west as the Egyptian physician, Moses Miamonides prescribed it to treat colds and asthma (3). Maimonides was a rabbi and Jewish philosopher; several food historians trace the roots of Jewish Penicillin - a chicken soup - back to him.
In the late 1700’s, bone broth recipes started to pop up in Dutch cookbooks and by the late 19th Century in Britain, “beef tea” was prescribed to treat several ailments (3). Now, bone broth is a popular superfood and often talked about by nutrition and wellness experts.
As mentioned before, bone broth in Traditional Chinese Medicine is used to nourish the kidneys, build blood, repair cellular damage and strengthen qi (3). It has also a bunch of other great benefits:
Gut-healing properties: Bone broth helps your gut heal and this is really important. If your gut isn’t performing at it’s best, it’s not going to absorb all those nutrients from the foods you’re eating.
Supports connective tissues: It’s good for your hair, nails, ligaments, tendons and joints. The gelatin and collagen from animal bones will support your own human bones and other connective tissues.
Nutrient-rich: Bone broth is a great source of minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus. All play an important component in keeping your body going!
Immune-boosting: It will also provide your body with an important antioxidant called glutathione, an important component of your immune system.
My Favorite Bone Broth Recipe
I love this recipe because it embodies my childhood and is a part of my family’s yearly traditions. As soon as the Chinese Autumn Moon Festivities are over, my mother makes the season’s first batch of bone broth. Her recipe is very folksy - no real measurements (“just throw in however much you’d like”) and guided by intuition (“keep going until it feels right”) so in my own attempt to add structure, you’ll find that I have added some guidelines along the way. These guidelines are from years of helping in the kitchen and watching her make this recipe. My family has a rich history of Chinese Medicine practitioners - mostly Herbalists - so you’ll see some ingredients that might not be as common. Don’t worry - you’ll be able to find them on Amazon, I promise.
1-2 lbs mix of animal bones - beef, chicken, lamb, pork, etc.*
1 large piece of dried or fresh ginseng root
10 dried jujubes **
1/2 cup dried shiitake mushrooms
1/4 cup of rice wine or sake
1/4 cup of dried goji berries
*My mother recommends feet, knuckles and neck bones - chicken feet, pork feet, duck necks, pork knuckles, etc. for the gelatin and collagen content.
** Jujubes are Chinese dates and they add a nice sweetness to the broth. My family grows and dries our own jujubes but they can be found on Amazon or at your local asian foods store.
Break up the animal bones as much as you can so you can expose the marrow and collagen. Enlist the help of your butcher if necessary.
Place them at the bottom of a large stock pot and throw in the ginseng. Add enough water to cover the ingredients by about three inches.
Bring the bones and ginseng to a boil and then switch the heat to a low setting. Keep it at a low simmer, covered for 8-12 hours.
Add the jujubes and dried shiitake mushrooms. Continue simmering for at least 2-4 hours.
Drain all the ingredients and pick out the jujubes and shiitake mushrooms. Put the jujubes and shiitake mushrooms back into the broth, then add the goji berries and rice wine or sake. Boil until the goji berries plump up.
Turn off the heat and let it cool down naturally. (I have seen my mother put the pot outside in the cold to try to speed along the process.)
Enjoy it with your favorite Netflix show and a nice cozy blanket.
Mannelly, T. “Everything You Need to Know About the Benefits of Bone Broth.” Oh Lardy, 2016. http://ohlardy.com/benefits-of-bone-broth/. Accessed September 19, 2016.
Poythress, A. “Bone Broth History, Goodness Through the Ages.” Bare & Bones, April 1, 2016. https://www.barebonesbroth.com/blog/goodness-through-the-ages/. Accessed September 19th, 2016.
“Benefits of Bone Broth in Traditional Chinese Medicine.” Herb ’n’ Herbs, March 15, 2015. http://www.urbanherbsco.com/blog/3/19/2015/benefits-of-bone-broth-in-traditional-chinese-medicine. Accessed September 19, 2016.