Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Woohoo bone broth!

After my first dose of chemo knocked my white blood cells through the floor (like, there weren't any left..) my oncology nurse asked me if I'd had any drugs to bring them back up - apparently they'd made an impressive recovery. And you know what? No drugs were involved in the resurrection of my white blood cells, just an insane amount of bone broth. 

That's just one of the many good things about being a pastured chicken farmer - almost endless supplies of super-healthy chicken bits for making broth. I even caught myself thinking things like "Wow! What better time to be a pastured chicken farmer than when you've got cancer!". And while that's obviously a slight exaggeration (keeping Autumn Farm going through all this has been slightly arduous - just ask Pearl and the small army of 'chicken support units' who've been lending a hand) it has been great to know that I can drink as much pastured chicken broth as I like.

So what's so good about broth? And what even is broth anyway? Well, in our minds, broth is a magical liquid that's got some major goody-goodness-nutrition in it, normally involving cooking a whole bunch of the best kind of health-giving ingredients for a really long time. The long-cooking extracts the nutrients and minerals from your ingredients  (especially the bones), condenses them into the liquid, and makes them available for your body to absorb and use. According to, Jennifer McGruther, author of The Nourished Kitchen, "Homemade broth is rich in calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and other trace minerals.   The minerals in broth are easily absorbed by the body.   Bone broth even contains glucosamine and chondroiton – which are thought to help mitigate the deletorious effects of arthritis and joint pain." 

Perfect for sick people, little people, chemo-ravaged people, and even perfectly healthy normal people who need some nourishing goodness in their lives!

In our house, a broth normally involves lots of different veggies and herbs from our garden and the gardens of our friends (onion, garlic, parsley, carrots, celery, sweet potato just as a start), and some chicken bits. The chicken bits may include feet and/or necks,  a carcass or 2, and/or some bones leftover from a roast. Then we simmer it all with a splash of apple cider vinegar for a really long time - 24 hours at a minimum - sometimes on the fire, sometimes on the gas, topping up the water if needed. We then strain it off. The liquid gold that results from this process (seriously! It's gold!) is then either drunk, straight up, like an old-fashioned health brew, or used as a base for soup, miso, risotto (we've recently been experimenting with grains like spelt and barley in our risottos, which we're loving) or whatever else needs a bit of liquid goodness.

Now obviously we're not the first people to be in love with bone broth as super-healing elixir: this kind of caper has been going on for yonks, in all kinds of cultures, all over the world. The thing that amazes us is that it's not more popular and prevalent. Seriously - it's home-made medicine yo! And it tastes super-great! And it's cheap! And it uses up bits of stuff that might otherwise just get chucked out or composted!! And if you don't believe me, my exceedingly clever and nutritionally wise friend Genna has written about it on her beautiful blog, How Do You Like Them Green Apples? and there's also more information - historical, nutritional, and instructional - on the Nourished Kitchen blog. Look at it - it's good for you.

While chickens, for obvious reasons, are forming the basis for the vast majority of the broth action around here, we're also enjoying pastured beef bone broth (from our friends at Symphony Farm) and some pretty freakin' awesome fish broth, courtesy of some of our successful fisher-friends. My personal fave for the fish broth is to just have a big bowl of it served with a ton of kimchi. Cannot. Go. Wrong.

Fish broth on the go, utilising the remnants of a massive salmon that Pearl's dad caught for us, which we baked with some dill and garlic and shallots.
And if you don't have a near-endless supply of chicken bits at your disposal, you can always do a 'freezer-bag broth', which is the way we used to do things. Basically, whenever you chop or peel a carrot/leek/sweet potato/onion/whatever, instead of composting the bits, you put them into a dedicated bag or container that lives in your freezer. Similarly, when you roast a chook, or have a BBQ or whatever, chuck your bones in there too. When the bag is full, dump the lot into a big pot with some peppercorns and bay leaves, cover with water, and simmer away!

I've just realised that this post might sound kind of bossy. I don't mean to be bossy - I'm just excited. And I'm also feeling all inspired because of the book I started last night, called Independence Days, which is all about reclaiming food production (amongst other things). So think of my ranting less as bossing and more as a call to arms - let's start with some broth, shall we??


  1. Boss- away! According to my 4 yr old "bossy means you know what you're doing!". Maybe it's my maternal bias, but is that not spot on? ;)

    Broth is amazing stuff...and I don't even simmer for as long as you people and I still think it's good. Will definitely try your suggestions next batch I make.

    With the spelt risotto...is it whole grain or pearl spelt that you use? Do you soak it prior to cooking?

    Thanks as always.


    1. Thanks nada! I think that comment from your child is pure genius. The spelt we used for the 'spelt-otto' was just plain old whole grain. Takes longer to cook, and has a lot more texture and flavour than arborio rice. I can't go back! Thanks for reading and commenting - have fun with your risotto experiments! X

  2. Hi there, I love your blog. Chicken broth is also called Jewish penicillin. Wonderful that you are being nourished by great food and support from friends and family. I am sure you are an inspiration to so many people. Kindest regards, Jo

    1. Thanks Jo! I'm so glad you enjoy reading the blog. We have fun with it, and it's nice to know people are getting inspired by our ramblings! X

  3. I love bone broth! So glad you are doing okay and loved by so many. :) I miss you! I love reading your blog - I can just hear your lovely voice.

    1. Aw thanks Jona! I'm glad you enjoy reading the blog. But I think you're the only person who's ever described my voice as 'lovely' hahaha! X

  4. Do the bones have to be roasted, or can you use raw?