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Have you noticed all the references to bone broth lately? It seems to be everywhere, in print and in blog posts and online articles. There are several reasons, all of them worthy of attention. Bone broth is ancient and has, for millennia, been used as a basic food and as a special restorative for ailing, weak and even nervous individuals. Made with wholesome ingredients, it is an outstanding source of essential nutrients, from protein and calcium to vitamins and trace minerals.

Bone broth has been around pretty much as long as humans, or, perhaps more accurately, as long as humans have had fire. When we relied on our wiles instead of markets for our food, we used every bit of everything, including all parts of the animals we hunted. We didn't discard innards or bones but instead seemed to know, intuitively, that they were somehow essential to our well-being.

Bone broth has long been used as a restorative for ailing children, new mothers and anyone struggling to recover good health. It seemed to fade into the background in recent decades, while chicken broth and chicken soup continued to be praised for a near-magical ability to heal. Jewish penicillin, chicken soup is often called.

Now, bone broth is standing side by side with chicken broth. If you're battling a virus, it can be one of the few things that actually tastes good, which indicates, I believe, great physical wisdom. We crave, or at least enjoy, what our bodies most need.

Another reason for the revival of bone broth is, I think, the increasing availability of grass-fed meats and pastured chicken and a spreading awareness of the true meaning of sustainability. That grass-fed meats are better for both human health and the environment is widely acknowledged these days. So, too, is the wisdom of using all that we produce. If we eat meat, it makes sense to include the bones in our diet and the way to do this is by making bone broth.

What's the difference between stock and broth, you might be wondering at this point. They exist on the same continuum and their definitions are not set in stone. In general, broth is said to have a greater percentage of flesh, stock a higher proportion of bone, but I find this distinction is best applied to restaurant cookery. Home cooks needn't worry about it.

In my own cooking, I've made just a few changes as I've experimented with bone broth. The addition of a small amount of apple cider vinegar, for example, assists with the extraction of minerals and so I've added it in recent batches. I've also begun cooking bones longer and stopped discarding them after I make the first batch of broth. Because of the lengthier cooking, I've been making my bone broths in a slow cooker instead of on top of the stove, as I think it is safer when cooking at very low heat.

For more details about bone broth and for links to both information and recipes, visit Eat This Now, this column's companion blog, at

Making bone broth, either on top of the stove or in a slow cooker, is an imprecise technique. I do not worry about measuring any of the ingredients, though I am careful not to add more than 2 tablespoons of vinegar, lest it influence the taste rather than assist with its intended purpose, the extraction of minerals. It is something every generation of home cook has known how to do, until the last generation or so. The technique should be revived and passed on to our younger family members. Once done, the broth can be seasoned simply, with salt and pepper, and enjoyed as is or used in other recipes.

Slow-Cooker Bone Broth

Makes about 8 to 10 cups

5 to 6 pounds meaty lamb or beef bones

-- Kosher salt

-- Filtered or spring water, hot

4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1 carrot, in chunks, optional

1 yellow onion, quartered, optional

3 shallots, halved, optional

3 to 4 garlic cloves, optional

1 or 2 parsley sprigs, optional

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Put the bones on a baking sheet or in a roasting pan and season all over with kosher salt. Put them in the oven and roast until evenly browned, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Transfer the bones to a slow cooker and add the hot filtered or spring water, covering the bones by 1 or 2 inches. Add 2 tablespoons of the apple cider vinegar and whatever optional ingredients you want. Cook on high for 1 hour and then program on low for 12 hours or as long as your slow cooker will allow. Cook the bones for a total of 24 hours.

Check the liquid now and then, adding more as needed to keep the bones submerged. Skim and discard the foam and other impurities that rise to the surface.

After 12 hours, you can remove a ladle or two to use immediately and replace it with fresh water. Use more broth as needed, always replacing it with fresh water.

After 24 hours, gently pour the broth into a container and cover the bones with fresh water and add the remaining 2 tablespoons of vinegar. Cook the second batch for 48 to 72 hours.

Cool the first batch of broth to room temperature, cover it and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled; overnight is best. Remove and discard the layer of fat that has congealed on the surface of the broth. Transfer to another container, leaving behind the layer of impurities at the bottom of the stock.

As the second batch of broth cooks, use it for cooking dried beans and in soups that do not need a stronger broth; always top off with water. When the flavors diminish completely or to where you no longer like them, discard the bones and other ingredients.

Use remaining broth within 3 or 4 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

You can, of course, use the bones of a roasted chicken to make this broth. But if you're setting out to make chicken-bone broth, this is the technique I recommend.

Slow-Cooker Chicken-Bone Broth

Makes 6 to 8 cups

1 whole pastured chicken, preferably a heritage meat breed

-- Kosher salt

1 small carrot, in chunks

2 shallots, halved, or 1 yellow onion, quartered

3 or 4 garlic cloves

2 or 3 parsley sprigs

1 slice of fresh ginger, optional

1 teaspoon white peppercorns, optional

-- Filtered or spring water

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

Rinse the chicken in cool running water and put it in a large saucepan or stock pot. Season well with salt. Add the carrot, shallots or onion, garlic, parsley and the ginger and peppercorns, if using. Cover with filtered water by 2 inches and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. The moment the water begins to boil, cover the pan and turn off the heat. Let sit for 1 hour.

Uncover the pot and use tongs or a carving fork to transfer the chicken to a platter to cool. When it is cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the chicken and refrigerate it, covered, until ready to use.

Put the chicken carcass and other bones into a slow cooker, strain the poaching liquid into the cooker and add more water as needed to cover the bones. Add the vinegar and cook on low for 12 to 18 hours, using the broth as you like and always topping off with water. Skim off any foam or other impurities that rise to the surface.

Strain the broth into a clean container, cool, refrigerate and then remove the layer of fat that congeals on the top of the broth.

Use the broth within 3 to 4 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

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