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Broth, Or, Saturday Morning at 10:32am


After a way too busy holiday season, life is finally settling back to normal. The house painters have left – they’ll come back later for a few final touches. And yes, the front door is unfinished but I have decided 1.) I don’t care right now 2.) maybe I’ll just get a new door. Mid-century modern, perhaps.

While the painting pause fills my to-do list with all kinds of new stuff, I’m exercising strategic option #1 again, i.e. Just Don’t Care At Least Right Now. The best part of retirement is choice.

And not caring means that this morning, as we speak, I’m sitting at my kitchen counter watching a just-about-to-simmer pot of bone broth. Also known as: 4.5 pounds of oxtails from pastured-raised cattle; 2 carrots; 1.5 onions (1 yellow and charred, half a red one because I ran out of yellow); a bay leaf; some peppercorns; one big stem of charred ginger; a whole lot of filtered water; 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar.

Fancy punctuation for a very simple foodstuff.

The pot’s going to be sitting on my stove all day long. Maybe into tomorrow or the day after. I’ve never made bone broth, but it’s all the rage. Usually that doesn’t motivate me terribly – I’ve never cooked anything Moroccan, for example – but I’ve got my reasons.

For example? I’d like nothing more than to tell you. What better than to chat while ignoring one’s to-do list?

First, the broth is ostensibly good for your joints and I’m prone to aches. Second, if that turns out to be quackery, which I can well imagine, I believe that as a meat-eater I ought to consume as many parts of the animals as possible. Waste is bad. Third, I should use my resources to encourage pasture-raising. Commitment is good.

And finally, because pleasure moves me more than virtue, because doing good is something I require of myself and delicious comes naturally, what better than a large pot of completely homemade soup?

I’ve always loved to cook. I remember the first time I made a recipe beyond Nestle’s Tollhouse. Something with crab and avocado, from Craig Claibourne. The sense of accomplishment, of adulthood. In my late 30s and early 40s I hosted small dinner parties all the time. My food was very good, my short-term memory at its peak, I moved quickly and accurately carrying the numbers of teaspoons in my mind.

These days my food is probably worse but I don’t care. I enjoy myself so much.

The bone broth, which is still coming to a simmer, by the way, I have triangulated out of a few recipes. This one, for the basics, this one for oxtail pho, and this one for Hawaiian oxtail soup. By triangulated, I mean I read them all and then decided I knew enough to proceed. Oh, and by another way, I’ve moved to the sofa. Best place for a chat.

The decades, while they’ve denatured my capabilities, have compensated with knowledge, habit, and confidence. Not always true with skills as we age, but wholly so in the kitchen. So I parboiled the oxtails for 5 minutes, following the bone broth recipe, added charred ginger and onions from the pho inspiration, and used more water than anyone said just because Significant Husband loves a not-too-strong broth.

It might turn out badly. In which case, I will probably feel annoyed, but will exercise our valuable strategy one more time, and Just Not Care, At Least Right Now.

Life is good, my friends, life is good. Have a wonderful weekend. I hope you have time for broth or its equivalent.

68 Responses

  1. We’re remodeling a bathroom and so have had workmen at the house for the past five weeks. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s turning out nicely, but it’s still very wearing.

    I cooked a turkey after Thanksgiving and made a really nice soup from the carcass. But I was actually thinking of making chili this weekend for The Big Game. With beans.

    1. Very wearing indeed. Not quite like having a newborn, but not to be discounted. Chili with bean sounds delicious!

    1. No. Not yet. It’s supposed to cook FOREVER, and before I eat it I’ll be adding a bunch of other spices. Besides, the oxtails still look a little scary;). I’ll taste it pretty soon.

  2. I’m holding good thoughts for your broth. I imagine it will smell and eventually taste delicious. Other than the occasional brisket, my cooking is relegated to short-term projects these days. :-)

    1. Thank you for protecting my soup:). And I remember the days of the quick cooking projects oh so well.

  3. I was just reading about bone broth. Sounds horrid to me, but will try to keep an open mind. Do let us know how it turns out, please.

    1. Did you ever eat consommé as a child? I’m hoping it will be a little bit like that, albeit without the purifying egg white mask:).

  4. I’ve heard bone broth is good for what ails you. Probably like calves liver was in days past. Bone marrow is touted to have all kinds of good things to support healthy blood cells?
    Upon visiting our local Chinese Cultural Center for tips on how to better care for their children when hospitalized, they gave me a recipe for a fish broth with ginger as an excellent source of collagen to help with wound repair and healing after surgery. Wish I could recall the specific fish.
    I think soup is nurturing and comforting to the soul, and yours no doubt will be very delicious!

    1. It is the collagen, among other things, that is supposed to be good for healing. Bone marrow, I’ll have to work up to that.

  5. I make bone broth all the time, and if you do decide you like it, getting an All-Clad or Cuisinart slow cooker will help you immensely. I just throw it all in there, what you have and I sometimes add fresh turmeric, and let it simmer overnight, or whenever – you don’t even have to be at home, as it’s very safe to leave it.
    I use grass fed, free range bison bones, or oxtail like yours. I’m also prone to general aches, and I do think it helps. It’s used a lot in Oriental medicine, as I’m sure you’re aware. My granddaughter starting having some from a bottle when she was about 6 months old!

    1. I hadn’t heard about people feeding it to babies these days, but, I can imagine it was often done in previous centuries. I do have a slow cooker, an old Crockpot, but it can make food taste weird, so I thought about it here and decided against. I believe we’ve got another All Clad one somewhere in a box, perhaps time to take it out. And funny you mention it, I’d just seen reference to fresh turmeric online, the root, right? I am not sure my local WF carries it, but will definitely check.

    2. WF’s usually has it, or your local Farmer’s Market? Yes, All-Clad slow cooker is totally different than the old fashioned crockpot.

  6. So glad you’re having such a good time. I understand that retirement is good, so we must enjoy the freedom that we have earned.

    Keep us posted regarding the benefits or non-benefits, if that may be the case, of your bone broth. I am also using pasture raised or grass fed meat. I wish I could be a vegetarian, but so far I have been unsuccessful.

    Will we see photos of the new paint colors?

    Life is good.

    1. @E. Jane, The new paint is pretty much white, kind of white, and really super duper white, but yes, I’m planning a post. Because, heck, if I have to suffer I need company!

  7. I’m on board with paragraph 2 – strategic option #1: Just don’t care right now, and the best part of retirement is choice. I must keep these two things in mind! I’ve been reading a lot about bone broth and what a healthy food it is for children and adults. My brother-in-law wrote to me about making fish bone broth and using it to poach fish. I love soups and am trying out new recipes. Here in Virginia, we are very partial to Brunswick Stew which is more a thick soup than stew. Delicious! I am going to have to try making bone soup. Hope you will share your recipe.

  8. My daughter’s friend made me aware of bone broth as it benefits joint pain. It is delicious and easy to use for sauces as well as just heating in a cup as a tonic. Next time, try roasting the bones in a 350 oven for a half hour before putting them in the stock pot. I read that adding the veggies toward the end gives better flavor. Over two days I made two batches from one set of bones and froze it in mason jars. So yummy!
    I agree that age has made me more confident in the kitchen than ever.
    Enjoy your weekend!

    1. @Marcy Simmons, I’m trying to combine this with making oxtail soup, so roasting the bones themselves will be tricky. I may determine that I can’t do the two things at once very well.

    2. Since some of us make bone broth for the health benefits, which involves leaching the minerals and collagen out of the bones (with the help of the apple cider vinegar) I’m curious if roasting the bones interferes with that process. I agree, if you’re going for flavor, but not sure if it changes the result.

  9. I’ve been making my own bone (and vegetable) broth for several years. It’s very easy, particularly in the slow-cooker, and it tastes better. I hope yours turns out well!

  10. Oh I saw on a Paris foodie blog about this bone broth…quite fascinating actually and I must do some research and give it a try.
    My Grandmother used oxtails a lot in her stews and soups…she was very frugal and did not waste anything…I loved her hearty broths with her freshly baked breads…smell and taste can transport you back in time!
    All Clad make great products, I have their roaster but not the cooker like Kathy…I will need to use my new slow cooker instead.

  11. Sounds very back-to-the-future to me, quite honestly, although your version, with the pho-influenced charred ginger, etc., sounds more upscale than the broths I’ve simmered over the years, and my parents and grandparents before me. . . Simple satisfactions. A privilege, I suppose, being able to wend our way back to them. For my grandma, the oxtail soup was a necessity rather than a choice. . .

  12. If you roast the bones first it greatly improves the taste and color of the finished broth.

    1. Barbara and Marcy are spot on with roasting the bones first. I’d go for more than 30 minutes though. But feel free to freelance — that’s what I love about cooking!

  13. I am not the soup (or broth) maker in this house…a fact I revel in. And since I’m retired too and have choices…I don’t care that I’ve just ended that last sentence with a preposition. What rebels retired English teachers become! BTW I’m still not getting e-mail posts from your blog. Should I sign up again?

  14. The bone broth sounds delicious! We hardly ever have meat here now that my 16-yo son is a vegetarian, almost a vegan. He is away on a band trip this weekend, so I made a quick, simple meat-containing dinner – spaghetti with meat sauce. It felt great to be eating meat for a change, and this was so much easier than the typical vegan dinner, which requires hours of chopping vegetables.

    I do not feel right unless I have some chicken, fish, or meat once in a while. And I worry that my 6′-tall son is not getting the nutrients her needs.

    Our WF market carries fresh turmeric.

    1. @Marie, I can imagine the worrying, but with enough vegetable proteins and minerals, he will be OK. I guess the hard part is just the balancing? I hear you on the chopping):)

  15. By now your bone broth is well on the way to be done if not done. All the rage or not, I’ve been making bone broth, a wide variety from various species, for years, but not recently, and you have sparked an itch. Well, that is not completely true, I’ve consistently been making chicken broth with the carcasses and bits from my local organic free range chickens, with an occasional chicken foot thrown in as well. But now perhaps I have a hankering for something beefy. You mention wanting to do something with the oxtail meat, will you share? I adore oxtails.

    1. @Mardel, We’ve just shredded it off the bones, and eaten it over rice:). I did put star anise and cinnamon in the broth at the end, so it’s kind of like a pho-light stew. Not recipe worthy, but delicious if you like a simple meal.

  16. Great post – thank you! Since I learnt to make a soup base from scratch a few years ago, I’ve been making soups and Oriental noodles soups for the family. Yesterday we all enjoyed a delicious hot pot that also depends on a great soup base. It really is one of the best basic things to know how to cook.

  17. I like hearing that life is good for you right now! I love to cook also, but do not claim to be a good cook at all. On my stove right now: Big Jere’s Chili. Who was Big Jere? My husband’s ancestor Jeremiah Augustus. .

    1. @Susan, I love that. Do you think Big Jere would have minded that I made chili with bone broth today? Bone broth flavored with star anise and cinnamon?

  18. Climate scientists are continually demonstrating the connections between raising livestock and global warming. Grass-fed cows produce 40 to 60 percent more methane gas than grain-fed cows, making grass fed cows more climate changing. When accounting for land and water-use inefficiencies, effects on biodiversity and net greenhouse gas emissions, pastured animal agricultural systems are even less sustainable than factory farming.

    While carbon dioxide takes several decades or even centuries to leave the atmosphere, methane leaves the atmosphere within a decade. A simple shift from eating animals to eating plants would significantly curb global warming, dramatically reduce deforestation and conserve our precious water.

    The water issue is of importance to us all but might strike a particular chord with those in drought stricken California. One hamburger requires 660 gallons of water to produce – the equivalent of 2 months’ worth of showers. 2,500 gallons of water are needed to produce 1 pound of beef. 477 gallons of water are required to produce 1 pound of eggs; 900 gallons of water are needed for cheese. 5% of water consumed in the US is by private homes. 55% of water consumed in the US is for animal agriculture. The meat and dairy industries combined use nearly 1/3 (29%) of all the fresh water in the world today.

    The environmental documentary “COWSPIRACY: The Sustainability Secret” does a great job of covering all this and more – and in an engaging and sometimes funny way. Short clips from the movie can be viewed here:

    While the subject of “COWSPIRACY” couldn’t be more serious, it ends on a happy note. I hope everyone will see it.

    Other sources …..

    The Florida League of Conservation Voters: Animal Agriculture is Environmentally Destructive:

    The Center for Biological Diversity: Take Extinction Off Your Plate:

    1. @Karen Orr, You have commented similarly before. I appreciate your thoughts and your resources. I am, however, going to ask that going forward you comment a little more briefly, without reposting all the links every time. The comment section here is small and intimate, and I want to make sure it doesn’t become a platform for broadcast communications. Thank you in advance for your consideration.

    2. @Karen Orr,
      Karen, you raise excellent points. I feel sick about the destructive path we are on. There are multiple reasons to reject a meat-based diet. We are mostly vegetarian here because my 16-yo son is an animal rights activist, and he is almost a vegan. I spend a lot of time cooking now – it’s so much harder to make a vegan meal than a meat-based meal. My problem is that I don’t feel right if I don’t have some meat, chicken, or fish once in a while. I cave every other week or so, and I feel very guilty. And I worry about my son.

      Thank you for the information on turmeric!

      1. No, I meant it, and I continue to appreciate your participation. It was just that this time the comment seemed to reiterate a lot of what you had already said, and it was also very long, so I wanted to make sure to encourage you to speak, but to ask at the same time that you might adapt your comments a bit to the ongoing nature of the community. Does that make sense?

        I guess I’m trying to make a distinction between ardent advocacy and comments that might start to feel like soapboxing over time. Which, of course, is probably not a verb.

  19. If bone broth turns out to be a panacea for whatever ails you, your All-Clad Slow Cooker will be just the thing. You never know. There could be something to it. After all, chicken soup really is good for colds.

    On the other hand, if you’re still aching after a reasonable trial of broth, there are supplements that already have science backing up their proponents’ claims. If arthritis is the culprit, the Arthritis Foundation has several pages on supplements on their website, as well as good dietary suggestions.

    I hope you feel better soon.

    1. @Wendelah, Thanks for the good wishes. I’ve felt these aches for 10 years now – some even longer. Any arthritis seems to be very minor, nothing structural is visible, my doctor believes it’s soft tissue. Or, just joint pain. I’m trying everything now that I have time to focus, just to see if I can get rid of the pains before they settle in forever.

    2. Lisa,

      Perhaps there’s something here that will be helpful …..


      The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine: Foods & Arthritis

      Dr. John McDougall: Diet & Arthritis

      Dr. Michael Greger: Turmeric, the spice that helps ease rheumatoid arthritis pain

      I hope you feel better soon.

  20. Bone broth? Well, I guess I’m out of it. Never heard of it. I recently had a virus and the doctor prescribed a huge bowl of chicken soup. But Bone broth. I’ll have to do a google search. I love he idea of roasting the bones. I would also roast the vergetables. Now Kathy has given me the bug to buy an All-Clad Slow Cooker. I must admit mine is about 40 years old. Maybe things have changed. Please give us a review of your Bone soup. I usually like think soups. So this will be interesting. You started smoothg young lady.

    1. @Sandra Sallin, Sandra, you might want to try your 40-year-old slow cooker first. I’ve heard that for liability reasons, current models don’t really have a low setting, out of concern that someone will use the thing to undercook meat. So our slow cookers aren’t as slow as they should be these days.

    2. Mine All-Clad has a low setting and even the high is quite low. The older slow cookers (or crock pots) gave food a funny taste, not so with the new ones. And Sandra – chicken soup is really just chicken bone broth with added ingredients – same thing, and same benefits.

    3. @Sandra Sallin, I made chili, and soup, and a curry and there’s still more left. On its own it needs some lemon juice and a little soy sauce. But as a stock/thickener it’s awesome.

  21. Ooh, I need to try that. I never make beef broth. I usually make chicken stock – if you’re interested, here’s my favorite way to make chicken stock:

    buy two whole chickens (I buy organic)

    cut off the whole legs (thigh and drumstick together). Put these in a ziplock and cook them for dinner tomorrow.

    Put the chickens in a pot with onion, carrots, celery, salt, peppercorns, bay leaf and water. Parsley whole stems if I have some. I’m very loosey-goosey about what veggies to put in. Nothing needs to be peeled. There should be enough salt in the water to begin with, it’s better if you add it at the beginning.

    After 45 minutes simmering, pull out the carcasses and let them cool a little. Pull off the cooked whole breast meat. Those are dinner. (I like them with an italian salsa verde, but they’d be great for chicken salad too.)

    Put the carcasses back in and simmer for a few more hours or until the stock looks and tastes like you want it to look and taste.

    Strain and cool. The stock will be very gelatinous from the bones. I guess that’s a form of bone broth.

    Second favorite way to make chicken stock:

    Roast a chicken for dinner. After dinner throw the chicken carcass into the crock pot with some onion, celery etc like above (but less salt) and simmer overnight. This stock will have a roasted flavor but it is still good.

    1. @rb, Yes! That first way is exactly how I make Chinese-style chicken soup, except I use ginger and green onions instead of the European spices.

  22. I’ve made chicken and beef pho stock in the last two weeks – I just can’t bear to use the term “bone broth” as it seems both trendy and icky (bones?!?!). If “stock” was good enough for Julia Child, it’ll have to be good enough for me!

    I would like to see some scientific proof of the collagen/broth link to health, though. I look on the Chowhound site for cooking and recipe tips often and many people there will espouse anything with no proof whatsoever at the drop of a hat (i.e., basically, anything and everything is “toxic” in someone’s opinion). The Chow business has made me cynical in general, it seems.

  23. I never knew bone broth was a thing or trend. Is there even another way to make a meat-based broth? Whenever my parents made soup, it was from boiling some kind of bone. Then again, I’m Asian & my parents are immigrants, so I grew up eating very differently than the general American population.

    Lisa, your mention of oxtails reminds me of my mother’s oxtail soup. It is wonderfully flavorful & hearty, & one of my favorite winter dishes. I’ll have to ask her for the recipe, provided she has something written down. :)

    1. @m, So much of what Asian immigrant cooking knew the rest of America is finding out only now. Oxtails are DELICIOUS!

  24. Lisa,

    Perhaps there’s something here that will be helpful …..


    The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine: Foods & Arthritis

    Dr. John McDougall: Diet & Arthritis

    Dr. Michael Greger: Turmeric, the spice that helps ease rheumatoid arthritis pain

    I hope you feel better soon.

  25. Love your mom’s house. We lived in Stockholm for 2 years and Sweden really spoke to us and confirmed my love of white! I met and did some design work for an inspiring woman called Martine Colliander who traded me to Gripsholm chairs slipped covered in white linen that I cherish!

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