Stock Up for Skin, Bones

Thanksgiving Turkey by Tim Bish


Once the Thanksgiving feast is over, I make the most savory, healing, dish of all: turkey bone broth. Not only does sipping a well-made stock help reduce the desire for leftover stuffing and pie, it is nourishing, healing, and anti-aging.

Bone broth, due in part to its rich collagen content, is medicinal, able to enhance or even restore joint, skin, bone, and GI health. Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body. It is said to hold us together! Our bones, skin, connective tissue, cartilage, and joints in particular, benefit from a regular infusion.

Long, slow cooked bones release marrow, minerals, and collagen into a gently simmering medium. Collagen is transformed with cooking into gelatin, an elixir that not only plumps and lifts aging skin cells, but heals intestinal damage, strengthens bones, hair and nails, and even relieves joint pain. Gelatin replenishes collagen in our structural and connective tissue. 

I have more than one client who swears by bone broth to soothe arthritis pain. My neighbor says the joint pain in her hands disappears with a few days of sipping bone broth.  (Add some ginger for even more effectiveness.) 

Gelatin-rich dishes are also particularly flavorful. One of the most delectable umami dishes I ever experienced was created by a French chef who simmered a large pot of stock until it was reduced to a mere cup of velvety sauce he flavored with herbs and vanilla bean, then poured over roasted chicken.  

Marrow is another flavor-rich, healing component of bone, and thus broth.  Marrow, a fatty gel found in the inner hollow of bone, has its own unique healing benefits. A 2014 University of Michigan study found marrow is a source of adiponectin, a hormone that helps break down fat and maintain insulin sensitivity thereby preventing diabetes and other metabolic diseases, including cancer.  

Low adiponectin is associated with health problems says one of the lead authors of this study, Erica Scheller, a postdoc fellow. 

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) bone marrow is the source of blood and Qi, our essence. While not easy to explain to the allopathic minded, let’s just just say marrow is a source of deep vitality and health. Western medicine, in its parallel universe, finds bone marrow rich in stem cells, the genetic material for life. Our bone marrow is the source of blood cells and nourishes the brain and spinal cord.  

Healing Benefits

Skin. By healing the gut mucosa, bone broth helps benefit skin, including relieving problems such as rashes, acne, and psoriasis, even wrinkles. After our mid 20’s our skin produces less collagen, one of the reasons behind sagging and wrinkles. By supplying collagen and glycosaminoglycans (anther bone broth ingredient), bone broth helps plump skin cells and restore skin elasticity.  Anti-aging creams often contain collagen for this reason, but nourishing your skin from within is far more effective. 

Digestion: Bone broth is rich in minerals plus amino acids, including proline, glutamine, and glycine, which heal gut mucosa. This makes gelatin-rich broth an excellent remedy for chronic GERD (reflux), diarrhea, IBS, Crohn’s disease and other GI disorders.  Glycine helps us make bile and acids for digestion, as well as helping with liver detox. Glutamine in broth helps heal damage to the intestinal wall, including leaky gut, a contributor to digestive issues. Broth also fights inflammation. 

Traditionally prepared soups, stews, and sauces have long nourished our ancestors and although modern foods are lacking in this rich healing component, traditional broth is seeing a revival. 

How to make bone broth: 

Keep every scrap of bone as well as some meat from your turkey. Rescue bones from guest plates and the carving platter. I keep a big plastic tub in my freezer for this. Leftover chicken, beef, and pork bones get deposited in the freezer until stock-making time. Necks, wings, skin, connective tissue, and feet are particularly rich in collagen, your most precious ingredient. Since you are unlikely to find a turkey with the feet on (unless you catch, kill and pluck your own), consider procuring a bag of chicken feet.  I toss 3-5 feet in with a pot of bones and water before starting the simmer. 

I once lived in Barcelona and shopped for foods from respective purveyors: bread from the baker, veggies from farmer’s markets, meats from the butcher, seafood from the fishmonger and chicken from a tiny local chicken shop. Here, only chickens, carrots, celery and onions were found in the miniature glass case.  

Whole chickens here were just that: whole. I always insisted feet and heads be removed. One day the stout Spanish purveyor chastised me for eschewing those colorful feathered heads and scaly feet. “These make the very best broth!” she chided. “You must keep these for your soup.” Who wouldn’t make soup?  I decided I could handle the feet, but couldn’t bring home a chicken head.  I started making stock, with feet. (This was a woman who will never need a hip replacement.)

I digress. An easy way to make broth is to fill an 8-quart crock-pot with bones, a bit of meat, and feet, then cover with COLD water, add a pinch of sea salt and tablespoon of apple cider vinegar (which helps to pull minerals from bone) and set to low for 18-24 hours. If I have time, I add in veggie scraps in the final 3 to 5 hours of simmering. 

Once done, cool your broth a bit, then remove bones and use a fine cone sieve to strain out the remaining bits.  Pour into glass quart canning jars, cover and refrigerate. Some say cooling jars in an ice bath prolongs shelf life. If you leave some skin and meat on you will get a nice layer of fat on top, which also seals and preserves. Leave this on! 

Sally Fallon Morell, author of Nourishing Traditions and Nourishing Broth, the bone broth bible, is the perfect source for more on this.

Enjoy your broth in the form of turkey soup, pureed butternut squash or “creamy” broccoli soup, or just warm up a cup of broth flavored with a pinch of sea salt. 

Bone broth benefits your joints and tummy, your skin, hair and nails, and promotes more resilient bones. Best of all, it’s a satisfying, savory pleasure.