Chicken bone broth is the perfect base for all types of soups, stews, and gravies. It’s also very healthy, there’s a reason the doctor orders broth when you’re sick!
Every good soup, gravy and sauce starts with a delicious base. Without that base, you’re lucky to get mediocre at best. Gravy and sauces are meant to accentuates a dish, or sometimes it becomes the star if it’s greedy. You know the type, big egos that can’t let anything else be the center of attention.
Without the right base, instead of having a rocking party in your mouth it tastes like that party is dying. My nose is wrinkling just thinking about it.
Then there’s soups and stews. I’ve been reading a whole debate in one of the soup groups on Facebook about what the difference is between soups and stews. What I’ve realized is, you get to decide the difference. The one thing they do tend to have in common is a good base ingredient.
The Base Ingredient
That ingredient, more often than not, is a broth or stock. This is another debate, what’s the difference between broth and stock? To me there isn’t really a difference but I bet if I asked my chef husband he could give me at least a 10 minute presentation on what the differences are.
For my purposes today, I’m using the term broth but you could easily replace it with the term stock if you choose. (Honey, please don’t give me that lecture. I’m perfectly happy in a world where broth and stock are the same.) Just kidding, he would never do that. 😏
You have this fabulous dinner all planned out. The perfect soup, or maybe a beautiful cut of meat is on the menu. But you want to make it extraordinary, not just okay. Who wants to settle for just okay?
To be fair, I’ve made more than my fair share of “okay” meals (maybe a few down right terrible ones too) but I never aimed for that. I set out for extraordinary, I just didn’t know quite how to get there yet. We’ve all been there right? Please tell me it wasn’t just me!
Now I’m in a much better place to find that extraordinary and more often than not, my meals turn out quite delicious. Experimenting still goes wrong sometimes, but I’ve learned a lot and those okay (or worse) meals are getting fewer and farther between.
Cooking from scratch is one of those homesteading skills I can actually learn while living in suburbia, so I’ve dived in head first.
Tips For Making The Best Chicken Bone Broth
One thing I’ve learned, a good broth goes a long way in making a soup you’re going to want seconds of. It’s also one of the secrets to making a gravy or sauce with that show stealing ego I mentioned earlier.
Broth is quite simple to make, but to get a really good quality broth you need to cook it at a low temperature for a long time. Recently I’ve learned to stretch this process out even more, ending up with 2 batches of broth instead of just one.
Mind shattering! To me it was anyway. I joined an online training and learned from the queen of traditional cooking herself, Sally Fallon Morell, how to make a more nutritious, and delicious broth. The free training was through the School of Traditional Skills and her book is called Nourishing Traditions (affil. link).
She cooks her broth twice, the first time adding acid to help extract collagen and gelatin from the bones, best for sauces and gravy, and the second time to get a rich delicious broth perfect for soups and stews.
This shifted how I made broth in the best of ways! The end product is definitely in the extraordinary category.
The First Batch Of Bone Broth
For this batch I made chicken broth using the carcass of the roasted chicken we had a few days ago, and another carcass I had in the freezer from a different meal. With it, I added some chicken feet from pasture raised chickens because the feet are great sources of collagen and gelatin.
A few carrots, onion peels, and peppercorns were also stuffed into the slow cooker. I chose the slow cooker because I could let it go for a full 24 hours and it’s completely safe to leave it unattended.
Once everything was stuffed into the slow cooker I added about a 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar. Add just enough water to cover the bones, or just below the lid if the bones stick up above the slow cooker insert a little bit.
Any vinegar will work, you don’t have to use apple cider vinegar. That is just my vinegar preference. What matters is that you use an acid, like vinegar, in the broth. This acid helps the bones and joints release collagen and gelatin. It’ll give you a lovely jello-like broth once it’s cooled that is incredibly tasty and unbelievably good for you.
Turn the slow cooker on low and if it has a timer, set it for 24 hours. If yours doesn’t have a timer make a note of when you turned it on. Then come back the next day around the same time to turn it off.
After 24 hours has past, strain the broth and let it cool. Once it’s cooled a bit, put it in the fridge. You want to chill it overnight to let any fat that’s in it solidify. The next day you can pull it out and scrape off the fat and see if your broth jelled up nicely.
Store this broth in the freezer and pull it out as needed for sauces, gravy, or heat it up to drink when you’re sick. It’ll help get you feeling better in no time.
Cooking The Second Batch of Bone Broth
Okay, the first batch of broth is made and all the bones and other bits have been strained out. Don’t throw them away! Put them back into the slow cooker and cover with water a second time. There is no need to add any vinegar for the second round. You’ve already extracted the collagen and gelatin in the first batch.
Turn the slow cooker back on low and set the time for 24 hours again. Or make a note to come back in another 24 hours to turn it off.
Once the second 24 hour period has past it’s time to strain again. This will be the last batch, you’ve now taken out everything you could and the bones should be soft enough to easily break with your hand. You’ve gotten all the good stuff out of them!
Take this batch and chill it just like you did the first batch. Chances are good that there won’t be much fat in it, but you still want to solidify any that’s in there and skim it off. When this batch cools, it will still be liquid, not jelled. The broth can be stored in the freezer or canned to make it shelf stable.
Storing The Broth
I always choose to can it so I can store it on the shelf. Freezer space is at a premium in my house so I try not to store things in there when there’s another way I could preserve it.
Why didn’t I can my first batch as well? The reason is that the high heat and pressure needed to can broth will destroy the collagen and gelatin. Freezing it is really the only way to preserve it long term and keep all those benefits. Since the second batch doesn’t contain those, you’re fine to can it without worrying that it’s destroying the nutritional content.
The bones and other ingredients can now be composted. The vegetables won’t taste like much at this point, so the compost bin (or chickens if you have them) are the perfect place for them to go.
Now you have the tools to make your soups, stews, sauces, gravy and anything else you want to use broth for extraordinary too!
If you want to know how to can the broth to make it shelf stable, check out my video on pressure canning broth.
Check out these two posts to see how we used broth to make gravy and a red wine sauce.