I have been making a lot of beef broth the last few months between a bull we brought in and a few extra boxes of bones we’ve since gathered from that same butcher. Beef broth is no joke with its thick layer of fat on top of each pot and its necessitating a hacksaw to get the bones into the pots. But it is deep nourishment and cheap as well so I am grateful.

So every week I have been about the business of making plenty of broth. Here’s how.

Making Beef Broth

We bring home large boxes full of bones from the butcher. After cutting the larger ones with a hacksaw, we generally fill three large stock pots. I then proceed as follows:

  1. Cover the bones with filtered water and a splash of apple cider vinegar and simmer for 12-18 hours.
  2. Turn off heat and let pots rest for an additional 8-12 hours.
  3. Skim off the fat and set aside. Remove bones and pour into quart jars.
  4. Eat straight away or preserve either by canning or stashing in our solar freezer (or our neighbor’s).

frozen-broth

Preserving Broth: Freezing

Do you see the crack at the bottom of the jar above? Also, notice the fat pushing out from the jar rim. This batch of broth I had jarred thinking they were making their way into a refrigerator. I later found out we would be storing them in our small solar freezer but didn’t change the volume in the jars to compensate. Big mistake!

Liquids expand when they are frozen and so the most important thing you can do when freezing broth is to fill your jars only about 80% full. This should give them room to expand and you will be far less likely to lose jars and broth in the process.

We eat through our broth in a week as we can’t store it too long with our solar freezer. We have also been using the frozen broth as “ice” in a cooler we keep a few grocery store items in. So every morning we move two jars from the cooler into the kitchen for cooking and then two jars go from the solar freezer and into the cooler to thaw and act as ice.

Preserving Broth: Canning

The main method I use for preserving broth for the long term is canning. This gives us long term storage without having to use our solar freezer which isn’t always reliable. After all of the broth is made and strained into jars I follow these canning guidelines from the USDA:

Table 1. Recommended process time for Meat Stock in a dial-gauge pressure canner.
Canner Pressure (PSI) at Altitudes of
Style of Pack Jar Size Process Time 0 – 2,000 ft 2,001 – 4,000 ft 4,001 – 6,000 ft 6,001 – 8,000 ft
Hot Pints 20 min 11 lb 12 lb 13 lb 14 lb
Quarts 25 11 12 13 14
Table 2. Recommended process time for Meat Stock in a weighted-gauge pressure canner.
Canner Pressure (PSI) at Altitudes of
Style of Pack Jar Size Process Time 0 – 1,000 ft Above 1,000 ft
Hot Pints 20 min 10 lb 15 lb
Quarts 25 10 15

Source

With all of this broth going in and out of pots, we have been consuming at least two quarts per day or 3-4 gallons per week. If you aren’t familiar with the benefits of bone broth and the minerals, collagen, gelatin, and easily assimilated amino acids it contains, this article has a lot of great information.

Do you make and eat bone broth?

chick-coop-girls
I didn’t expect the news to hit me as hard as it did this morning. Then again, I haven’t quite figured out how to avoid a tear-stained cheek when I see one of theirs.

Stewart came in looking very sober and quietly let me know that half of the newly purchased chicks were gone. Just as he told me, five-year-old Annie was heading out to feed this, her first flock. When we found one severely injured, the news got worse.

Her Daddy held her at the breakfast table as she cried out the tears of her first real homestead loss. I watched these two across a jar of fresh blue bonnets and tried not to cry too. It isn’t our first loss on the homestead, and certainly not the first time we’ve had to learn from a loss, but seeing Annie did me in.

cucumber

The remaining chicks were fed and watered and new housing contemplated. Her tears were gone not long after she finished her sourdough pancakes but the rest of the morning felt somber and heavy. Somehow going to check on things in the garden seemed appropriate, between hanging up laundry and sweeping floors.

lettucebed

I half wondered if we wouldn’t incur some loss there as well. We have often had these losses come in bunches; a swath of fruit trees and the garden taken out by cows; chicks lost to snakes one night and a rat pilfering the tomatillos the following morning. I’ve also been a bit like a Mama of a newborn in recent weeks, checking these little seedlings daily as they go from seed to seedling to a plant sturdy enough to withstand the reality of weather and bugs and everything in between.

ruthie-radishes

So out we went, to check on these baby vegetables that we’d taken photos of the night before. With Ruthie in her rain boots and Joshie on my hip we went to touch the dirt and pull some weeds.

And there they were, the green beans and tomatillo (just one) that survived the unexpected frost. There were the squash hills and melon plot and cucumbers with their dewy wet leaves. The peas still held their delicate flowers; the newer potato planting is still barely coming up. The lettuce is still growing and the garlic has me wondering just what is under all of that green top.

It was almost odd how green and dewy the garden was with the death of those chicks in the back of my mind.

wildflower

I think what homesteading does is to prevent us from being sheltered from some of these realities of the world we live in. With life and then death it can all feel so fragile at times… which has lead me to the conclusion that we’re just kidding ourselves when we think it’s not.

Part of the education we’re receiving out here is through the death and the life and the infinite mercies in all of it that we so often don’t see. We give thanks for the loss and ask the Lord to teach us whatever we are supposed to learn – both physically and spiritually. There can only be more death in our future, of that I am certain. It’s a good reminder of the sobering reality of husbandry and stewardship.