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Them bones, them bones - The Art of Bone Stock

Why is it that meat, whether it’s fish, poultry, beef, pork, game or lamb always tastes better when cooked on the bone? Yet, in our modern, fast-paced society, bones seem to have fallen out of favour for the sake of convenience.

Them bones, them bones …

There are some terrific books available on the subject, such as Cooking on the bone by Jennifer McGlagan (Grub Street Publishing) that are devoted to literally, providing recipes and suggestions for cooking on the bone. Jennifer, with her deep passion for traditional foods has written this book full of recipes and ideas to rekindle and tickle the funny bones of home cooks all over the country.

It’s winter at the moment so we thought we’d take this opportunity to do today’s write-up about broth from bones … commonly referred to as the elixir of health, laden with medicinal properties against strains of flu.

In addition from a home economics perspective, bone stocks are easy to prepare, quite affordable (the cost of quality–origin organic bones is usually under $5/kg), are highly convenient and do not require any lengthy preparation.

photo credit: MKUCOVA/THINKSTOCK

Bones are so extraordinarily rich in protein and minerals, as well as a key source of glycine. This supports the body’s detoxification process and is used in the synthesis of hemoglobin, bile salts and other naturally-occurring chemicals that support digestion and the secretion of gastric acids. Bones also provide proline and gelatin, which are good for skin health!

So, broth, stock or bone broth … what is the difference?

Broth is water simmered with vegetables, aromatics and meat, and can contain a small amount of bones (think of the bones in a fresh whole chicken). Broth is typically simmered for a short period of time, usually 45 minutes to 2 hours, then strained and seasoned. It is very light in flavor, thin in texture and rich in protein. The goal of broth is to use a combination of ingredients to create a light, flavourful liquid that can be enjoyed either on it’s own or as a soup-base along with other ingredients. Note that broth usually remains liquid when chilled.

Stock is water simmered with vegetables, aromatics and animal bones, sometimes with meat still attached (think of the meat on a lamb neck bone or chicken wings). Often the bones are roasted before simmering them as this simple technique greatly improves the flavor of the stock. Cooking duration is usually 4 to 6 hours prior to straining. The goal of stock is to extract the collagen from the connective tissues and bones being simmered, which give stock its thick, gelatinous quality. When chilled, good stock should have the texture and jiggle of jelly. The most common uses of stock are either for deglazing or as a base for a rich sauce or gravy. Stock is also a great binder to use instead of cream or butter, or you can use it in a broth-like manner (just dilute with some water).

Bone Broth is basically like a hybrid of broth and stock. The base is more stock-like as it is usually made from roasted bones, but there can sometimes be meat attached. It is cooked for a long period of time, often more than 24 hours, and the goal is to not only extract the gelatin from the bones but also to release the nutritious minerals (when completed the bones should crumble if pressed lightly between your thumb and forefinger). The liquid is then strained and seasoned to be enjoyed either on its own as a nourishing drink, as a base for soups, sauces, stews, curries and just about any dish that requires cooking a piece of meat or vegetable in a liquid.

To avoid confusion as to which of the above labels to give this long-cooked liquid made from bones, we simply refer to it as bone stock (how cheeky of us)! When we consulted with our industry friends and culinary specialists, it became obvious that each person seems to have their own magic bone stock recipe. Some people add vinegar or lemon juice, whilst others add plentiful amounts of aromatic spices, most roast the bones first.

At Artisan House bone stocks are a regular staple in the fridge and freezer, particularly in winter. We typically prepare a 5 litre batch of stock twice a week which is portioned into freezer dishes, labeled with contents and date of making (for “stock” rotation purposes :-)) and stored in the freezer until such time as required. We alternate between chicken, beef and lamb, and occasionally (when airing the home is an option) fish.

In the book I am Food author Anthia Koullouros (published by Penguin Books Australia) provides a beautiful & wonderfully useful guide to making bone stocks as follows (pp.214-215):

You will need the following ingredients:

Your choice  of raw bones or seafoodWater (4 litres for every 1kg bones; 3 litres for every 1.5kg of whole chicken; 3 litres for every 500g of prawn shells, fish heads and tails)

Natural salt (1/4 teaspoon for every 1 litre of water)

Vegetables (for every 1kg of bones, add 100g each of sliced carrot, onion and leek, 1 celery stalk and 1 bunch of flat-leaf parsley stalks)

Apple cider vinegar (3 tablespoons for every 1 litre will help extract minerals)

The method is simply:

Place all the ingredients in a large stockpot and simmer, covered, for 4-6 hours (hard or large bones, such as beef bones, can be simmered for up to 10 hours). Skim the froth off the surface every now and then. When the stock is ready, any meat and cartilage will fall off the bone. Strain and serve as clear broth or freeze in 2 cup (500ml) containers and use as needed.

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