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Nutritious Homemade BrothJump to Recipe
Homemade broth as a cure for your troubles? In our current time of economic downturn, spreading illness, and general unease, many people have looked backwards for guidance. What would great-grandma do? How did previous generations of Americans survive wars, drought, and the great depression? Will we ever go back to “normal”?
In addition to sourdough bread, some traditional kitchen staples have worked their way into the spotlight. Raw milk, butter, egg yolks in coffee, liver, and of course- bone broth.
Broth is nothing new. From the time that we had pots to cook with, we’ve had broth. Escoffier praised stock. The book series “Chicken Soup for the Soul” spotlights the benefits of a broth-based soup. The Weston A Price Foundation considers broth to be a non-negotiable in the kitchen.
Okay, okay broth is good for you. We know. But what does homemade broth have to do with economics and uneasiness on a national scale? In a word, everything.
Homemade Broth as the Cure for Everything
The lockdowns of 2020 revealed an ongoing tragedy. Most Americans are living paycheck to paycheck (63% according to a 2022 study), which means you’re essentially spending all of the money from one paycheck before the next one comes. This is the definition of risk and instability. (It’s how I grew up- it’s how most of us grow up) Add in a pandemic, or job loss, record high inflation, rising grocery costs, etc- and suddenly we’re not even making it to the next paycheck.
Cue homemade broth.
Okay, the saving grace is not just the broth: it’s a signal of a return to the kitchen.
Gas prices, groceries, commodities, taxes, and inflation may continue to rise, but you can’t control that.
We need to turn inwards, looking at what we can control; what we spend and what we earn. (I’m not going to offer suggestions on increasing your income- you can find a billion such resources online, I recommend listening to Dave Ramsey’s show.)
Homemade Broth as the Invitation to Cook Again
We can control a big wild card in our spending by controlling our food budget. Reigning in the food budget means cutting out eating out and adding in cooking from scratch. Cooking from scratch is going to require logging in hours in the kitchen- learning new skills and routines- but it’s going to pay off in financial savings, household resiliency, and health.
Getting back to the kitchen means getting back to making broth, and making broth means eating better, for less money. With jars of shelf-stable, homemade broth at the ready, you’re going to have to find way to use it. Homemade soups, flavorful rice dishes, cooking liquid for meat and beans, a hot drink to sip on a cold morning… Broth is nearly as versatile as water- but brings flavor and nutrition to every dish it touches.
Making broth isn’t a hard or hands-on kitchen project. You’ll need to check on it and stir it now and then. These visits to the stove will inevitably lead you to finding other things to try…
Homemade bread. Homemade cookies. Searing meat for a homemade stew. Dicing onions to freeze or can. Meal-prepping casseroles and breakfasts. Writing out a meal plan for the week. Portioning foods for the kids’ snacks. Seasoning that cast iron pan. Scrubbing that
Making broth opens the door to time in, and familiarity with, the kitchen. And from time in the kitchen flows delicious, nutritious food that costs less than buying your food ready-made.
Homemade Broth as the Cure to Your Budget Woes
In that stereotypical homeschool graduate way, I am unashamed in my love of running real-life math problems out of pure curiosity.
I’m no calculus major, but I can do some mad mental multiplication and division. This manifests as calorie counting (without an app!) on more days than not. But it also means I’m “mathing” money a lot. Do I really save money by canning dried beans? (Yes) Do I really save money by raising pigs? (Yes) Are the current dairy goats cost-effective? (No)
In the same vein, I ran the numbers on homemade chicken broth a few weeks ago. What do you know, the homemade stuff comes out on top, especially when we consider the secondary benefits from making broth. When you make chicken broth, you’ll get broth, cooked meaty bits, and bones from the stockpot in the end.
Obviously, this post is focusing on the broth itself, but it’s worth noting that the bones can be the first step for homemade bone meal. And the skin/meat/bits of tissue are high-protein feed for chickens. This means we’re not going to let anything go to waste, and in fact, are benefiting the soil and the hens with every batch of broth we make.
Okay, okay, onto the math.
This most recent batch of broth was made up almost entirely of chicken bones, feet, and skin- as well as the bone from a pork roast and some onion skins. All of these goodies were saved in the freezer over the course of a few weeks of cooking- they were totally free. I combined all of those ingredients with some tap water, a cup of vinegar, and some salt.
The batch yielded 11 quarts of broth, 13lbs of meat/tissue for chicken feed, and 2lbs of bones for bone meal.
My cost to make, and then can, this broth was about 10 cents each for the vinegar and salt, and $1.50 for the lids of the canning jars. $1.70 for 11 quarts of broth- or 15 cents a quart. I realize that this doesn’t include the cost of energy to run the stove, but even if we tripled the cost per jar, we’re at 45 cents a quart.
I can go down to Target today and buy a quart of chicken broth for $1.99. 11 quarts would be $21.89.
So we save $20.19 a batch by making it ourselves.***
A penny saved is a penny earned. Where have I heard that before…
Homemade broth for your health
Depending on what kinds of bones you make your broth out of, the nutrition can vary. But broth of all varieties is universally healthy and a cornerstone in the kitchen.
Broth is rich in collagen- a vital protein to the health of your skin, gut, muscles, and joints. Broth is also rich in protein- vital for every bodily function and something that many of us are under-consuming. Broth is also rich in many minerals including calcium, potassium, magnesium, and iron. You can even meet some of your vitamin needs in bone broth- such as vitamin A, B2, B12, and E. (Healthline has a long list of broth nutrients here)
The Weston Price Foundation is a famous proponent of broth & its nutritive qualities. This article on their website is a great overview.
Making Homemade Broth Yourself
The basic TLDR (too long didn’t read) of making broth is ingredients + water + time. The more complicated view is that you’re extracting the nutrients from those ingredients by saturating them in water and warming them long enough to allow for the breakdown of proteins, minerals, etc. There are any myriad of different combinations of factors to decide when it comes to making broth: the ingredients, the method of cooking, the length of cooking, and how you’ll store or preserve it.
Homemade Broth Ingredients
The easiest way to make homemade broth, inexpensively, is to begin saving the scraps and bones from meat and vegetables that you’re already cooking. Getting some knuckle bones, trotters, chicken feet, necks, skin, etc. will boost the amount of collagen and gelatin in the broth. Onion skins and ends will add color and quercetin to the broth. Celery ends, garlic cloves, carrot ends, etc will add more flavor as well. I prefer to make my broths with a variety of bones and ingredients to cover all of my bases.
Obviously we’ll also need water to suspend the bones and bits in. Adding a little bit of vinegar will help break everything down faster and makes for more complex flavor profile. For me, salt is a nonnegotiable, but your kitchen your rules. Adding some rosemary, marjoram, pepper, paprika, etc. will also enrich the flavor of your broth and can be added to suit your taste.
Cooking Methods for Homemade Broth
The easiest way to make a bunch of broth at once (and thus the most efficient way) is to simmer the whole mess in the biggest stock pot that you can get your hands on. If you have a wood stove (and I wish that I did!) you can start your broth on the stove during the day, and leave it on the wood stove overnight to stay warm and keep cooking.
The only con of the stock pot method, is that leaving your stove running 24/7 isn’t without risk. Errands need to be run and such. I leave the stove on when I go outside for chores, but I have to to turn it off when I sleep or leave the house or I’ll be too anxious about the whole thing. You can turn it on and off again and again until everything is cooked down, even if that takes an extra day or two.
If you work, or just don’t want your stove occupied for 36+ hours, there are other options for making homemade broth.
The crockpot is another good option for making broth since it’ll cook your food at a low heat indefinitely. The only con is that there’s a lot lower of a capacity than the stock pot, but it’s a lot more hands-free.
The instantpot is another kitchen gadget that people swear by for broth-making. I have an instant pot, but I’ve never made broth in it. In the same vein as the crockpot, the capacity is a lot smaller than a stock pot. However, I’ve heard that you can have broth down in a single morning, rather than 2 days. So the faster timeline is a definite selling point.
How Long to Cook Your Homemade Broth
This really comes down to your personal preference and your cooking method. The longer you cook the broth, the more everything will be broken down. Longer cooking will also mean stronger flavors, shorter cooking will result in a milder flavor. I prefer letting my broth cook over the course of 2 days, but I’m usually basing the cook time around other chores, tasks, canning, etc. If you’re upping your broth consumption to heal, I would suggest reading the GAPS Diet books by __, as she spells out how different broth cook times can affect your gut and immune system.
How to Store Your Homemade Broth
This is going to depend on a few factors, primarily how quickly you’ll be using the broth you made. If you’ll drink it all or cook with all of it in a week or less, I’d suggest just pouring it in jars and storing it in the fridge. If you won’t finish it within the week, you have 2 reasonable options. (The third option being freeze-drying- which is totally out of my wheelhouse)
Option 1 is freezing. Let the broth cool to room temperature, pour it into ziploc bags, soup cubes, jars, or another freezer-safe container. Label it, load up the freezer, and you’re set.
Option 2 is canning. The easiest (and quickest) way to can broth is to pour it, hot off the stove, into jars and load up the pressure cooker right away. I have a step-by-step tutorial here. You could also engage in some “rebel” canning and water bath broth for 3 hours. It’s a longer, fussier process and pressure canning is really much easier, but the option exists.
I’m biased towards canning broth because of the convenience and because it’s more disaster-proof. No need to think ahead and thaw it before cooking, no loss if the power goes off, and freezer space is left for other things.
How to Make Homemade Broth
Without further ado, here’s how I make homemade broth:
Homemade Broth Recipe
- Large Stockpot, Spoon
- Slotted spoon, colander or strainer
- Several Pounds Bones, Organs, Joints, Necks, Knuckles, Tripe, Feet, etc.
- Onion skins, celery ends, carrot ends, garlic cloves, etc. Optional
- 1 Splash Vinegar Optional
- Salt To Taste, Optional
- Rosemary, Oregano, etc. To Taste, Optional
- Water To FIll Pot
- Take all of your bones (and vegetable scraps, if you're using them) and place them in the stockpot.
- Add a splash of vinegar, salt, and other seasonings to the stock pot- if desired
- Fill the stockpot nearly to the brim with water, place on the stove and turn heat to high
- Once the water-bone-etc. mixture begins to nearly boil, turn the heat down so the pot is at a gentle simmer. Place the lid on the pot.
- Allow the broth to cook for 12-48 hours, as desired.
- Use the slotted spoon to remove all of the bones, meat, and scraps. Filter the broth through the strainer or colander. Broth is ready to use after this step, but the following steps will improve the quality of the broth.
- Move the pot of broth to the stove, and bring it up to a medium simmer. As it cooks, leave the lid off. Use a spoon to skim the fat and anything floating off the surface of the broth. Let the broth reduce by about 1/3 to 1/2 to allow the flavor to deepen- adding extra salt or other seasonings as needed.The broth is now ready to drink/can/use.
***When I ran the numbers previously, buying that amount of high-protein chicken feed and bone meal would’ve cost $15.48. So the total savings for a batch of broth would’ve been $35.60. Since this post is about broth I focused on that.
I hope this post has given you some food for thought and inspired you to start making homemade broth yourself. Between the cost savings, health benefits, and taste I’m sure that you, too, will find homemade broth to be worth the effort.
Thanks for reading and happy homesteading!
PS Raising your own chickens and pigs is a great way to secure high quality bones and bits for broth. If you want to dive into chicken-keeping this spring, this post has some ideas on where to source chicks this spring. For more information on what keeping pigs requires, check out this post. Finally, this post will give you specifics about making broth with chicken feet- a great way to get more collagen in your diet.