In my quest to master homemade meat broth and bone broth, I have learned bits and pieces here and there. Then, in January of this year, I completed a free online 30-Day Broth Challenge that brought all the pieces together and helped me establish a cadenced, consistent routine. Starlene is launching another challenge starting March 1. It'll be time well spent. You may be asking, 1)"Why make homemade broth?" Google: broth benefits. 2)"Will it demand a huge chunk of time?" Discover for yourself in the broth challenge. 3)"Where can I learn the process?" There are many online resources, but Starlene's broth challenge will provide a strong foundation. 4)"What cooking method works best (i.e., stove top, slow cooker, pressure cooker)?" Since I have used all three methods, I have an opinion which I'll share in my next post. 5)Which bones produce a gelatinous consistency? Selecting and sourcing collagen-rich bones is the focus of today's post.
After extensive research and trial and error, I discovered Seely's Ark Free Range Pastured "Heritage White" Soup Pac. I am now confidently and consistently producing the gold standard for homemade broth which has a jiggle like JELL-O. I'm not saying you must source Seely's Soup Pac or a even a similar product. In a perfect world. Yes. But, no. Just the types of bones included in the Soup Pac: 1 back/spine (what remains after the breast, wings, and legs have been cut away), leg bones (2 femur + 2 tibia), 2 feet, 1 neck, and 2 wing tips ("hands"). In their Soup Pac, Seely's Ark tucks all of the pieces, that you see in the photo above, inside the back bone cavity. Compact packaging. Tidy. I have included two photos below to aid visualization of the location of these particular bones on the chicken.
Left to Right: 1) Back w/ Spine and Leg Bones w/ Knee Joint 2)Wing Tip ("Hand")
Photos: Krieger Science
To achieve desirable gelling, 3 1/2-4 lbs of chicken parts is recommended. The weight of the typical bones included in a Soup Pac averages 2 lbs, so you would want to use double the amount of bones shown in the photo to make one pot of broth. (Keep in mind that you'll be able to get a second, and sometimes a third, pot of broth from these same bones.) Another option is to use the amount of bones included in one Soup Pac then add a package of meaty legs + 2 additional feet. The Soup Pac that I used in making today's broth weighed 1.92 lbs. The 5 legs that I used in today's broth weighed 1.57 lbs, so the total of all the meat and bones is 3.49 lbs. Plus the weight of two additional feet. Then it's just a matter of prepping the veggies then tossing them into the pot with the chicken parts and adding water, herbs, and peppercorns. I also add egg shells accumulated over time and stored in the freezer. While the ingredients simmer, let's talk about sourcing the chicken parts.
Ideally, you will want to use pastured chicken. In simplified terms, my stance is this. First, if we choose to consume meat, we must demand a humane existence for the animal, and it is our duty to support those farmers who are doing it right. Secondly, making broth provides an opportunity to use every part of the chicken. It is an important way to be respectful towards animals. Nothing is wasted. It is a statement of reverence for life.
I know that, realistically, we must do what we are able. Pastured chicken is definitely more expensive. We must evaluate how we spend our money and where we can trim expenses in areas that are lower on the priority scale. Pastured chicken is often difficult to source, but when diligence pays off and you're able to locate suppliers, it's a beautiful thing. Shop food co-ops and farmers markets in your local area and beyond whenever you travel. Buy whole chickens. Watch for sales, then stock up. Suggest to farmers, who raise meat chickens, that they assemble "Soup Pacs," which consist of parts that are often discarded. Walmart sells packages of chicken feet. If your Walmart doesn't stock them, ask. Making homemade broth is experiencing a resurgence, so it's more common to find what you need...if you know what you need to be looking for. And now for the big reveal. Gelatinous, collagen-rich chicken broth to heat, season, and drink in a cup or use as a base for soups, the liquid in casseroles, for simmering vegetables, etc.