In preparation of the impending side effects I knew would come from chemo,  I ran myself ragged trying to keep on top of work deadlines and readying my kitchen to sustain me through the downtime. I was hoping to make a batch of bone broth but had run out of time. When my friend, Cynthia, asked if there was anything she could do to help, I asked her if she could make it for me. Without any hesitation, she said yes.

[A quick aside: when someone offers help, take it. If you are not accustomed to asking for help, this is going to feel weird but trust me, accept it. Helping benefits both you and the giver.]

The side effects of chemo are many. One of the fun ones is nausea and vomiting…seriously, though, nobody wants that, so what you put into your belly takes a little bit more thought because if it’s going to come back, well, you want it to be with as little drama, impact and texture as possible. Broth seemed the least likely to offend in those categories.

You won’t find any shortage of writing on the topic of bone broth. HealthlineShape and Medical News Today, to name only a few resources, provide a lengthy list of possible benefits including those from minerals like phosphorous, calcium and magnesium that promote healthy bones. They state amino acids may promote healthy hair, skin and gut activity, aid in muscle recovery, provide energy and prevent inflammation. Also touted are the benefits of Vitamins A and K, iron, fatty acids and selenium which are said to assist in boosting the immune system, regulate metabolism and promote thyroid health.

Of course, these are not peer-reviewed medical journals, so keep that in mind, but I can tell you this: last year when I felt the flu coming on, I purchased bone broth from a local company just to see if it was all that. It was wonderful—full of flavour, robust and comforting—and what’s more, it seemed to sucker punch the flu bug into smithereens.  The broth was like a hug from mom, albeit a very pricey one at $13 for just under 600 ml.

I used to think bone broth was just regular broth but with a pretentious name to justify the cost, but this is how I look at store-bought bone broth now:

To make a consistent supply of any product deemed suitable for retail shelf space, the manufacturer must invest in permits, licenses, marketing, packaging, transportation, a place to make it and the cost of good ingredients (and if the product is organic, the cost of ingredients is higher). That’s the obvious stuff. What’s not obvious is time and labour. Bone broth takes a lot of time to make, like, up to 24 hours. It’s the slow extraction of nutrients from within the bones and connective tissue that makes it worth the time and effort.  So, the manufacturer not only needs to be paid for her time, but she needs to make a wage, too…because working for free sucks, right?

If you don’t want to pay that, make your own.

Cynthia spent about $60 on top quality bones and veg to yield 14 litres of broth. In comparison to the $13/591 ml store-bought product, hers works out to approximately $2.50 per 591 ml (or $1.25 per serving if you drink a little more than one cup at noon, one at night).

Also, it should go without saying, but use the best ingredients you can find. Get them directly from a respected producer who can answer your questions as to how they were grown. Use a butcher who deals with farmers who respect the land and raise their animals in a humane manner. The end result is worth it in both flavour and price breakdown. And, it sure beats this [graphic below] in every realm, possible:

Ingredient list: Do you know what’s in your broth?

I have consumed two cups of homemade bone broth almost every day through two chemo sessions since June 14th. I know every person’s experience will be different, and I can’t say for sure that it was the broth that helped to ease the side effects of the treatment but with all those nutrients in that liquid, it certainly hasn’t hurt.

Last week I made a chicken bone broth which I’ll post in a couple of days but if you’re looking to make beef bone broth, this recipe from Rebecca Katz, chef and author of five cookbooks, including The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen, and proprietor of  her nonprofit Healing Kitchens Institute, is the one Cynthia used for me.

Pastured Bone Broth

3 pounds marrow bones from grass-fed organic beef
6 unpeeled carrots, cut into thirds
2 unpeeled yellow onions, quartered
1 leek, white and green parts, cut into thirds
1 bunch celery, including the heart, cut into thirds
5 unpeeled cloves garlic, halved
½ bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley
4 unpeeled red potatoes, quartered
2 unpeeled Japanese or regular sweet potatoes, quartered
1 unpeeled garnet yam (sweet potato), quartered
1 (8-inch) strip of kombu
2 bay leaves
12 black peppercorns
4 whole allspice or juniper berries
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
8 quarts cold, filtered water, plus more if needed
1 teaspoon sea salt

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Place the bones on a rimmed baking sheet or roasting pan and roast until well browned, about 30 minutes.

Rinse all of the vegetables well, including the kombu. In a 12-quart or larger stockpot, combine the bones, carrots, onions, leek, celery, garlic, parsley, red potatoes, sweet potatoes, yam, kombu, bay leaves, peppercorns, allspice berries, and vinegar. Pour in the water, cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. Remove the lid, decrease the heat to low, and skim off the scum that has risen to the top. Simmer gently, partially covered, for 8 to 24 hours. As the broth simmers, some of the water will evaporate; add more if the vegetables begin to peek out.

Remove and discard the bones, then strain the broth through a large, coarse-mesh sieve. Stir in the salt. Let cool to room temperature, and then refrigerate overnight in an airtight container.

Skim off as much fat as you can from the top of the broth, then portion into airtight containers.

Store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 6 months.

Cook’s note: To make a shortcut version, roast the bones as directed and place in a 6-quart slow cooker. Cover with about 8 cups of Magic Mineral Broth and add the vinegar.

Set the slow cooker on low and cook for 8 to 12 hours, allowing the broth to simmer quietly. Strain the broth, cool, pour into an airtight container, and refrigerate overnight. Skim off the fat and add 2 more quarts of Magical Mineral Broth.