After every Thanksgiving dinner, my Grandma would always take the bones of the turkey home with her. It didn’t make sense to me. Why would one potentially put their car seats in danger of turkey grease stains for some meatless bones? Now that I’m older, wiser, and more experienced in the kitchen, I completely understand. Throwing away bones is like throwing out an untouched bowl of delicious homemade soup. And that would be a sin.
I accidentally and reluctantly learned about bone broth two years ago. Walking down every aisle of every grocery store in all of Zurich, I couldn’t find any cans or boxes of chicken broth. The only thing I could find was bouillon cubes. You know, the bouillon cubes that you bring on a weeklong backpacking trip since they are dehydrated and easy to carry. That’s how I know bouillon cubes, and even though they taste just fine, it’s not the kind of broth I want in my homemade soup.
So, just as I have done for everything else I can’t find here in Zurich (i.e. vanilla extract, taco seasoning, almond milk, salsa…), I decided to make it myself. I’ve seen via social media that bone broth is becoming popular back in the states; most likely due to the paleo diet. I wouldn’t have minded sipping on bone broth out of a coffee cup and instagramming all about it during this cold winter. Maybe in five more years, Zurich will catch on. Luckily, it’s warming up around here as we head into spring, but there is always a need for chicken broth, so it’s still worth sharing. And for all I know, it could be snowing again tomorrow given this city’s unpredictable weather.
Alright, let’s talk broth. The best part about it is that you really can’t go wrong. The slow cooker is my savior when it comes to broth, because you don’t have to let it simmer on the stovetop for hours. I believe the slow cooker slogan is something like, “set it and forget it,” and I am a big fan of that motto. Setting and forgetting your stovetop broth, on the other hand, will be a smoky and smelly disaster that I recommend not trying (my soup pot might never be the same). I prefer to just throw in some ingredients, turn on the slow cooker before bed, and wake up to a yummy smelling kitchen filled with fresh broth. And the other good part about broth? It’s good for you! I had no idea, but I found out that it is chock-full of vitamins and heals the gut. I guess the lack of food options I have here might be good for me after all.
First thing to do is start saving your veggie scraps. Chopped the ends off your carrots and onions? Save ‘em. About to throw away the tops of your leeks and the leafy part of your celery? Don’t. Have some herbs with no use? They now have a purpose. Throw the scraps in a plastic bag in the freezer for now. And then, the next time you roast or boil a whole chicken, you will be fully ready to make some slow cooker bone broth.
I’ll give you the basic recipe, but I want you to just use the veggies you have on hand, plus the scraps. Don’t worry about missing a few items…it will still taste good. And if you don’t have chicken bones, make veggie broth! There are endless possibilities.
Just start experimenting.
Your homemade soups will thank you.
- Bones and skin from a whole chicken (I mostly use chicken, but can easily be replaced with other meat bones)
- 1-2 carrots
- 1-2 ribs of celery, including the leafs
- 1 onion
- 1-2 bay leaves
- 1-3 garlic cloves, unpeeled
- A handful of herbs on hand (thyme, parsley, sage, and cilantro have been tested and approved by me)
- 1-2 teaspoons salt, plus more to taste at the end
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 7 cups of water, or enough to submerge your bones
- Green tops of leeks (well washed)
- Chopped potatoes, with skin
- Seaweed sheets
- Black or Pink peppercorns
- Celery root
- Mushrooms (though this is a strong taste, so be sure to know if it goes with what you are making)
- Place all the ingredients into your slow cooker. Cover the ingredients with water. If you have a bigger slow cooker, your ingredients might not be completely submerged in the water. If that is the case, try to break down the bones so they will be submerged in the water as much as possible. Turn your slow cooker on low and let it cook for 12-24 hours.
- Once slow cooked, drain the broth from the bones and veggies into a bowl with a sieve. Be sure to squeeze out as much juice from the veggies as you can before throwing them away. If you prefer, once the broth has cooled, you can skim the layer of fat off the top. But, a little bit of chicken fat adds some nice flavor so be sure to keep some! From there, store your chicken broth in tightly sealed containers for up to a week in the refrigerator. Alternatively, you can freeze it for up to six months.
- *To get a richer colored both, consider roasting your veggies and bones in the oven for about 30 minutes at 350F/180C, or until browned, before making the broth. I’ve only done this a handful of times since it is an extra step, but it is very tasty if you have the extra time!
- **You lose very little liquid while cooking in the slow cooker, so don't add much more than 7 cups of water.