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Stock, broth, bouillon: these somewhat interchangeable categories of hot, meaty liquids are having a heyday, thanks to the popular paleo diet, whose followers only eat foods that were available to our pre-agricultural ancestors. But you needn’t be paleo or even CCC (caveperson cuisine curious) to enjoy a good broth. Bone broths, recently featured in a New York Times piece charting the liquid’s rise from kitchen staple to hip beverage, occupy a rare space in the food world, as they are simultaneously trendy, global, and timeless.

WHAT IT IS

Use the terms ‘stock’ and ‘broth’ interchangeably and you might bother literalists with bones to pick. Bone up on the differences here if you’re so inclined, but don’t sweat it: broths and stocks are basically clear soup bases derived from simmering meat and bones in liquid to draw out their flavours and nutrients.

WHAT IT DOES

When properly prepared, bone broths are reputed to settle the stomach before a meal and heal a leaky gut over the long term. They’re also said to reduce joint pain, increase energy, strengthen bones, improve sleep and provide immune support. Thanks to high levels of collagen – an ingredient found in several cosmetic “plumping” formulas – devotees believe regular consumption promotes a youthful appearance.  Scientific support for these claims is limited, but broth fans point to studies that analyze components like hyaluronic acid (found to ease osteoarthritis pains) and glycine (shown to improve sleep).

And let’s not forget chicken stock, which both your mama and researchers agree is a legit remedy for colds.

WHAT CAN YOU DO WITH IT?

Add broth to soups and sauces or enjoy on its own. Or:

Drink it like a hipster by serving it in shot glasses, and don’t forget to remind your friends that it’s paleo.

Sip it like an aging gourmand by calling it consommé, and serve it in a delicate bone china bowl. Be sure to gently spoon away from your body as you eat.

Down it like a badass by chugging it solo or by boiling it with the meat, veggies, noodles or dumplings you’ve got on hand. Then just eat it however you damn well please. It’s broth, not an accessory.

WHAT YOU NEED

  • 2-4 lbs roasted or unroasted chicken, ham, beef or lamb bones
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider or rice wine vinegar
  • 4-6 cups roughly chopped vegetables (onion, celery and carrots)
  • Optional: 2-3 chicken feet for extra gelatin
  • Optional: a bunch of parsley, a few bay leaves, a sprig of thyme

Paleo diets are a hip answer to modern industrial food woes, but we recommend embracing a truly Paleolithic spirit and using ingredients you already have. Roasted bones add more richness than non-roasted ones, but you can skip that step by tossing leftover bones (and their attached cartilage) in a freezer bag whenever you roast meat. Experiment to discover whether you prefer beef, chicken, ham, lamb or a blend. Fish bones and fish heads can also be used for a seafood broth, but their shorter cooking time means they are better cooked alone.

Also, broth is the simple solution for produce that is starting to go soft, and carrots, onions and celery are particularly tasty additions. But you can skip them if you don’t have any. Consider aromatics like a bay leaf, parsley and thyme, or create a plain broth to store in the freezer and experiment with herbs and spices each time you warm a new batch.

Your broth will still taste good if you omit vinegar, but it won’t be as healthy – the acid draws nutrients out of the bones and into the brew.

Whatever you add or omit, remember: broth has been a staple across the world for millennia, in part because it’s almost impossible to ruin. You’ve got this.

HOW IT’S MADE

  1. Add the ingredients to a large crockpot and cover with water.
  2. Set the crockpot on high and bring to a boil.
  3. Skim off any scum on the top of the pot, then turn the crockpot down to low and simmer for 8-24 hours.
  4. Cool and strain.  Discard the wilted vegetables and meat bits. If you wish, the bones can be rinsed and stewed a second time.
  5. Store broth in the fridge for 3-4 days, or in the freezer for up to a year. Refrigerated stock will form a layer of fat on top – it’s up to you whether to keep it or skim it off. Don’t be scared by cold broth’s gelatinous form, as it will liquefy once heated. Enjoy bone broth on its own – plain or seasoned to taste – or use it in soups and sauces.