Nourished to the Bone with Marrow Soup

bone marrow broth Warming and nourishing soup is considered a health food in Chinese medical nutrition. When you add bones and bone marrow to your soup broth, the health factor increases exponentially. This is because bone and marrow relate to the kidney in Chinese medicine terms, and the kidneys influence growth, reproduction and longevity.

The kidneys represent the foundation of life itself in Chinese medicine. One inherits essential qi — known as “jing” — from parents. Lifestyle and environment are important factors in preserving jing. Aside from marrow, other foods that augment our essential qi include royal jelly, fish eggs, sesame seeds, almonds and microalgae.

The nutritional value of jing-strengthening bone marrow gets high marks from a Western nutritional point of view as well. As the soup simmers, vitamins, minerals, collagen and proteins from the ingredients infuse throughout the pot. This means you get more bang with your buck as a small amount of marrow enriches the entire dish. Bone marrow soup nourishes not only your hair and nails, but also all the body’s connective tissue — including cartilage, ligaments, tendons and even bone.

The key to extracting the important marrow and minerals from bone is a long cooking time. Adding a splash of vinegar helps draw minerals from the bone into the broth. Here’s a basic recipe that you can tailor to your taste:

Basic Bone Broth Recipe

Depending upon your preference, take the carcass of a chicken or purchase the marrow bones of beef or lamb.Femur bones work well, as do knuckle bones and ox tail. Stick to organic meats with no added hormones or antibiotics. Trim the fat and most of the meat from the bones. If possible use kitchen scissors to break the bones into 2-3 inch pieces. This creates more surface area for the bone marrow to contact the water.

Place the bones in a pot (crockpots also work well) and cover with water. Add a couple tablespoons of vinegar or lemon juice per quart of water to assure minerals extract from the bones. According to taste, you may add garlic, shallots, onions, ginger, celery, carrot, parsley or other herbs. Other tasty additions include whole peppercorns and goji berries.

Gradually bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer. For chicken, cook for 12 to 24 hours; for beef or lamb, 24 to 72 hours. If you’re using a crockpot, cook for at least 24 hours on low.

Feel free to add other vegetables in the last 1 to 2 hours of cooking for taste and nutritional value. When cooking is complete, remove the bones and veggies and strain the broth through a colander. You may strain a second time through a fine sieve or cheese cloth for a clear broth. Allow the broth to cool at room temperature and skim off the fat that rises to the top.

The broth will keep for about five days in the fridge or for months in the freezer. Enjoy it as a hot snack, soup or stew base or the water portion of rice or any cooked grain.

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Heritage Acupuncture serves the Durham Chapel Hill RTP area and offers acupuncture, Chinese herbalism and Asian skin care services. Janet Lee, L.Ac., specializes in orthopedics and internal medicine.

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