Bone broth is a buzzword in the food world right now—of course, the insider’s secret is that it’s the same broth that has been making chicken soup savory and delicious for centuries. However, consumers’ renewed interest in bone broth—as a trendy hot beverage and a healthy choice—is a good opportunity to market your own housemade broth, and to power up your broth game while you’re at it.
“Yes, bone broth is a buzzword, but it’s also the basis of any kitchen; it’s the first thing you learn,” said Holly Emmons, RD, foodservice manager at Union Hospital of Cecil County (UHCC) in Elkton, Md. “It’s the first thing we set up when we switched to scratch cooking almost 10 years ago.”
Store it right. Vacuum-sealed broth kept in the freezer keeps its fresh flavor longer.
At UHCC, fresh bones are purchased from the same local sources that supply chicken, beef, pork and turkey to the hospital.
According to hospital chefs and cooks there, the high-quality, nutritional powerhouse broth is an essential part of many menu items: soups, sauces, gravies, French dip sandwiches and on its own for patients on a liquid diet.
“There are doctors practicing functional medicine [similar to holistic medicine] who promote bone broth for health, so we do discuss it in that context with our patients,” Emmons says. “We utilize it within our patient menus, and making it ourselves, we control the flavors, the nutrients and the sodium.”
Here are tips for making a great bone broth from the culinary team at UHCC:
• Do get fresh bones and sear them to start. “Fresh bones absolutely will make a difference,” Emmons says, describing the once-monthly process of making a big batch of broth in a 30-gallon kettle. “Sear the bones first, and that’s what’s going to give you great color and flavor.”
• Do go for the most collagen. “Bones that have an elbow or joint have the most flavor,” Emmons says.
• Don’t overlook the quality of the vegetables. “It’s not just a place to dump things; use scraps in your soups or casseroles, but for our broth we use a mirepoix [carrots, celery, onion] of really clean vegetable,” Emmons says. “And don’t forget to peel your onions, or you’ll have a bitter taste.”
• Do store your bone broth right. “After it’s done, we portion it into five-gallon containers in the walk-in freezer to cool it down and then we tip it into vacuum-sealed one-gallon bags and we freeze it for storage,” Emmons says.
• Do use different stocks for different seasons. Pork bone broth, a little richer and more unguent than chicken bone broth, makes more appearances in the fall and winter. Fresh herbs or corncobs can join the party in the summer, and turkey broth is perfect for the weeks before and after Thanksgiving.
• Do make it a team effort. “We have an eight-hour production day, so the broth gets started first thing in the morning so it can simmer all day (at least five hours),” Emmons says. “It’s a team-building exercise in a way because all the cooks are involved. One person will do the onions, one will do the celery and everyone is keeping an eye on it and stirring it throughout the day. Everyone takes ownership.”