Beef Bone Broth: Healthy and Versatile

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Bone broth seems to be having its 15 minutes of fame these days.

The name — bone broth — refers to a long-simmered concoction of bones, vegetables and herbs that becomes a rich, deeply flavored and healthy elixir.

But it is a misnomer; it is actually a stock with an extended cooking time. Stock is simmered for several hours with bones and various aromatics, whereas broth is generally simmered with meat for a shorter period, results in a thinner consistency and a milder flavor and generally does not use bones. But with apologies to Shakespeare, a broth by any other name would still taste as rich.

Bone broth has been touted as a bit of a cure-all. It is reported to help everything from the common cold to joint pain to intestinal inflammation to the effects of aging. Scientific research does not necessarily support all of these claims, but I have a colleague who swears her achy knees feel better when she drinks bone broth.

And scientific research does support the indisputable fact that easy-to-digest, wholesome, nutrient-rich foods like bone broth are good for one’s health, so it is a reasonable choice for a sensible diet.

My husband has become a bit obsessed with beef bone broth. It started a few weeks back when he made his first chili of the season as the weather turned cold. He had a notion that the chili called for beef broth, and was determined to go the distance with bone broth, so he asked me to get marrow bones, which he roasted and then simmered for a day.

In the end, the recipe did not require beef broth (don’t get me started), so we had a gallon of bone broth with no clear destination. The good news was that we used it for a wonderfully warming and healthy vegetable soup. We also froze a couple of pints for future use.

Oh, and of course, I gave a container to my colleague with the achy knees. One note of warning: Bone broth is fragrant and the smell fills the house while it cooks. This is worth considering before you embark on the project as the smell is quite pervasive.

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Beef Bone Broth

Makes about 1 gallon

The beef bones need to be roasted first in order to temper the flavor. This only takes about 40 minutes, but it is crucial for a successful result.

For the roasting step:

  • 4 large marrow bones
  • 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
  • 3 carrots, coarsely chopped
  • 3 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
  • 1 parsnip, coarsely chopped (optional)
  • 1 head garlic, cut in half
  • A handful of fresh herbs: rosemary, thyme, parsley, marjoram, whatever you have on hand or 2 tablespoons mixed dried herbs

For the simmering step:

  • All contents of roasting pan, plus drippings
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 1 cup red wine

In a large roasting pan, place all the “roasting step” ingredients, evenly distributed.

Roast at 400 degrees for about 40 minutes until the meat is browned and the vegetables are cooked.

Dump the contents of the roasting pan, including all drippings, into a large stockpot.

Cover with water, add the remaining ingredients and bring it to a boil.

Lower the heat, cover and simmer for 12-36 hours.

Strain and use as desired.

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Beef Bone Broth Vegetable Soup

This soup was a great way to use the spare vegetables I had lying around. This version uses a classic assortment of late fall/early winter produce like cabbage, squash and root vegetables, but you could adapt it to whatever is in season.

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 8 cups assorted chopped vegetables: carrots, cabbage, butternut squash, parsnips, sweet and white potatoes, celery, etc.
  • 1 teaspoon salt, plus generous sprinkling of pepper
  • 2 quarts bone broth
  • 1 cup red or white wine
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cans chickpeas or white beans, drained

In a large stockpot, heat the oil and sauté the garlic and onion. When fragrant, add the remaining vegetables, salt and pepper.

Sauté the vegetables until they are soft, about 10 minutes.

Add the broth, wine, water and chickpeas. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for an hour.

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