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Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018 12:01 am

Good for the gut

Bone broth for what ails you

Bone broth ingredients.
Photo by Peter Glatz

All my life I’ve struggled with bouts of insomnia. When I was in college I had a Social Psychology lecture right after lunch. I remember very little about the content of the course, but I do remember the professor: Harry C. Triandis. Professor Triandis was a renowned psychologist, author of our course’s textbook, and a recipient of a prestigious John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship. And what I most remember about him is his monotone voice and slow, hypnotic cadence that lulled me to sleep every time. I had to record his lectures with a portable cassette recorder in order to find out what he had lectured about. In the evenings while I studied and listened to his tape, my roommate would immediately fall asleep and start snoring. Every damn time! For several years listening to those tapes in bed was my go-to insomnia cure. I even used them to help put my infant daughter to sleep when my wife had evening choir rehearsals.

In more recent times I have found that a late night mug of warm chicken broth has similar sleep-inducing effects. My wife often had a pot of homemade chicken broth simmering away on the back burner throughout the night. If I couldn’t sleep and I smelled it’s wondrous aroma wafting up from the kitchen, I’d go downstairs slowly sip a ladleful. Low serotonin levels can lead to insomnia, and it is estimated that 90 percent of the body’s serotonin is made in the digestive tract. Bone broth is supposedly one of the best things you can consume to heal and strengthen the lining of the gut so perhaps that’s why it helped me finally fall asleep. Or maybe it was the amino acid glycine from the gelatin in the broth that curbed the buzzing of the neurotransmitters in my brain. The science is fuzzy, but as long as I got sleepy, I wouldn’t over-analyze.

Bone broth has become a burgeoning health concoction. Various health and nutrition sites, especially the paleo community, tout bone broth’s restorative powers, including detoxification, improved joint and gut health, a boost to the immune system, tissue regeneration and, yes, better sleep. The food industry has picked up on this trend and “nutritional” bone broth is showing up on the shelves of health food stores. Industrial food has invented ways to make broth more quickly and less expensively by liquefying ingredients to make it shelf stable, or reducing it to a base to add water later, but the savings to the producer come at a cost to the consumer. The best broth is made the way your grandmother would have made it: slowly and simply from bones, vegetables and a little vinegar.

Bone broth shops are starting to pop up across the country, providing a more gentle, supportive alternative to coffee or tea. I was recently in Wisconsin where the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art has set up a “broth bar” in its lobby. One of the first proponents of bone broth as a nutritious beverage was New York City chef Marco Canora who started selling to-go cups of bone broth out of a small take-out window at his Manhattan restaurant Hearth. He named his side project Brodo Broth Company and now has several other New York outposts, as well as a broth mail order business. He is the author of Brodo: A Bone Broth Cookbook.

Marco Canora has operated a successful restaurant for over 14 years. He was recently awarded “Best Chef - New York” by the James Beard Foundation. His success, however, came at a price. “Being a maniac chef ended up making me physically ill. I was stressed, overweight, depressed and I felt like shit all the time. When I started drinking broth, I realized it was not only delicious and great to sip on, but also really healing.” This inspired him to start selling to-go cups of broth out of his restaurant. The financial success of his broth business allowed him to buy out his business partner and reconceptualize Hearth, his extremely successful restaurant. Making changes to something that was already working well is quite risky, but according to the New York Times, he felt the risk was worth taking in order to “serve foods that are nutrient-dense” and free of antibiotics, growth hormones and chemical additives.

Making your own bone broth is a simple and rewarding process. The first step is to source out bones. Ask your butcher for beef knuckle or soup bones. You can also add poultry bones, left over from Sunday’s roast chicken. I put my leftover chicken carcasses and wing tips in the freezer until I’m ready to make a batch of broth. Chicken feet (available online from Stewardson CSA farmer Stan Schutte at triplesfarms.com) are a great addition and make a rich, gelatinous broth.

I make my bone broth in big batches and store in pint deli containers in the freezer. I utilize all frozen poultry carcasses and meat bones that I’ve been saving. Most weekends I do meal prep for the upcoming week and generate a large amount of vegetable scraps. Instead of going into the compost bucket, they go into my stockpot. Except for cruciferous veggies like cabbage (which make the broth taste funky), most vegetable trimmings are a welcome addition. Onion skins and root ends, garlic trimmings, carrot peels, leek greens and celery scraps are utilized. I leave the stockpot on a back burner all weekend, keeping the temperature adjusted to a gentle simmer.

In addition to sipping the broth as a restorative beverage, I use it as a base for soups, risottos and sauces. Most recipes say that it can be kept in the freezer for up to six months. However, I store the broth made from the carcass of the Thanksgiving turkey for a year, to be used as the base for the next Thanksgiving’s gravy and dressing.

Chef David Radwine provided this simple recipe for Slow Cooker Bone Broth. The addition of apple cider vinegar not only gives the broth a nice acidity, but also helps draw out the nutrients from the bones.

• 2 pounds beef knuckle or soup bones from a healthy source, plus additional poultry bones and chicken feet if available
• 1 onion, unpeeled, cut in quarters
• 2 carrots, scrubbed but unpeeled
• 2 stalks celery, rinsed
• 2 tablespoons organic apple cider vinegar
• 1 head garlic, unpeeled, cut in half through cloves, exposing the inside of the garlic
• 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
• Several branches of parsley
• 1 teaspoon dried thyme
• 2 bay leaves

• Place all ingredients in a slow cooker. Cover with water. Cook for 24 hours.
• Strain and discard vegetables. Remove any bone marrow from beef bones to eat, and then discard bones.
• Add salt to taste.
• Refrigerate broth. Fat will solidify on top. The fat can either be discarded or used for cooking.
• Broth will keep for 4-5 days in the refrigerator.
• May be frozen for up to 6 months.

The next public informational seminar presenting the experiences of the CrossFit Instinct intermittent fasting study, including a new podcast by Peter Glatz, will be held on Tuesday, Feb. 27, at 6 p.m. at Springfield Clinic at 900 N. First St. Free parking is available in the adjoining parking garage to the north. Enter into the first floor and turn left into the first hallway to the media room

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