Canning Bone Broth at home is so simple that once you learn how you’ll never buy it again. Bone broth was a staple of our ancestors and the perfect way to extract every last bit of nutrition out of the animal.
While most people assume that bone broth is rich in minerals, that’s actually not the case. The minerals in animal bones are bound tightly and don’t break down easily even with a long slow simmer. Some people add vinegar to help acidify the liquid in the hopes that they’ll be able to extract more minerals, but a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in a 5-gallon batch doesn’t do much.
Though it lacks in minerals, believe it or not, bone broth is full of protein. That protein boost is one of the reasons health food advocates are suggesting sipping a cup of warm bone broth in place of your morning coffee.
Why Can Bone Broth?
With so many “artisanal” bone broth makers, why bother making your own?
Cost – Bone broth is supposed to be a way to make use of things you’d normally discard: bones. It’s supposed to be free, or close to it. Why then, are retailers slapping on the tag of “artisanal” and charging nearly a dollar an ounce? We can about 200 quarts of bone broth a year, or about $3000 dollars worth if you chose to pay “artisanal” prices. All it cost was an initial investment in our super sexy All-American Pressure Canner.
Quality – When you make your own, you manage the quality. Especially if you’re raising your own animals, you know the history of all the ingredients. Want all organic, grass-fed, free range and snoogled daily? You’re choosing the inputs.
Selection – Want to make something special? Perhaps with fresh thyme and mushrooms to use later for a fancy date night in? Go right ahead. Low salt? No salt? Skip the beef? Whatever your requirements, they’re easy to meet when you make your own.
Self Reliance – Canning your own food, especially protein-rich nourishing bone broth, means taking charge of your own wellbeing. I’m in charge of making sure my family eats well all year round, and those 200 quarts of bone broth canned in my basement makes a huge difference.
Equipment for Canning Bone Broth
So what do you need to can bone broth at home?
Pressure Canner – Unlike jams and jellies which are high acid, meat products, and vegetables need to be pressure canned to be shelf stable. We use a 30 quart All-American Pressure Canner which can hold 19 one pint mason jars or 14 one quart mason jars. If I had to do it again, I’d go even bigger. The 41.5 Quart Model is only a bit more expensive, and it can hold 32 pints or 19 quarts. With how much bone broth costs to buy in a store, you make up the difference in your first home canned batch.
Mason Jars – Most home canners have a ready stock of mason jars around. Bone broth can be canned in pints or quarts (not half gallons). Though I generally prefer wide mouth pint mason jars for most my home canning, I use narrow mouth for pressure canning. Why? With wide mouth pints you can only fit 14 in the canner, but narrow mouth is a bit smaller and you can fit the full 19 pints. More often than not, I can bone broth in quart mason jars because that’s how my family tends to use it.
Mason Jar Lids and Rings – While you can reuse the jars and rings over and over again, the lids themselves are only good to seal once. They’re the biggest ongoing cost of canning. We buy our mason jar lids by the flat because when you buy 16 dozen at a time you get a significant discount. The rings are also available in bulk, and a single bulk pack should last you a lifetime as you reuse them.
Canning Jar Lifter – A canning jar lifter allows you to move the jars while they’re hot, and is essential for both pressure canning and water bath canning.
Canning Funnel – If you spill on the jar lips they might not seal correctly. Always use a funnel to keep things clean. I really love this one because it has headspace measurements built in, but you can use just about any wide mouth jar funnel.
How to Make Bone Broth
Start by making bone broth using your favorite recipe. We save bones in our freezer until we have enough to fill our 5-gallon stockpot about halfway. A good measure of this is 2 to 3 one gallon Ziploc storage bags filled. Since the bones come from dinner, they’re generally already roasted. If you’ve boned your meat raw, roast them in the oven before starting your stock for a richer flavor.
Add in aromatic vegetables, such as carrots, onions, garlic, shallots or leeks. We generally use 2-3 onions and 4 to 5 carrots per batch as a minimum.
Cover everything with water, filling the pot to within 2 inches of the top.
Bring to a low boil, and then simmer on the stovetop for at least 4 hours. Often, we’ll let ours simmer overnight.
Strain the bone broth to remove all solids. We put it through a colander first, then a fine mesh strainer.
If your bone broth is excessively fatty, you can allow it to cool and skim the fat. This is not strictly necessary, but it’ll give you a cleaner finished product. We don’t skim our broth, and the extra fat adds to the richness of finished foods later on. Generally, it only amounts to about a millimeter at the top of each jar, so it’s not much to fuss over.
How to Can Bone Broth
Method: Pressure Canning
Pressure: 10 pounds under 1,000 feet (11lbs with a dial gauge canner)
Headspace: 1 inch
Time: 25 minutes
Prepare the pressure canner by adding about 2 inches of water to the bottom. Insert the bottom rack, and bring the water to a boil.
Your bone broth should also be boiling on a separate burner. Ladle the hot bone broth into canning jars, leaving 1 inch of headspace.
Add new canning lids and tighten the canning lids to finger tight. Use a jar lifter to place the canning jars into the canner on top of the bottom rack (never directly in contact with the bottom of the pressure canner). If you have a double-decker canner like our 30-quart All American canner, insert the divider and fill the second rack.
Secure the pressure canner lid, and tighten the bolts down all the way. Allow steam to escape from the pressure valve for a full 10 minutes before adding the canning weight at 10 pounds of pressure for under 1,000 feet of elevation.
Leave the stove on high until the canner comes up to temp, and the canning weight “jiggles” for the first time to allow pressure to escape. Once the canner is up to pressure, begin timing. Filtered bone broth without meat takes 25 minutes to can at 10 pounds of pressure.
Turn the heat down on the stove. The canning weight should jiggle at least once per minute, to tell you that pressure has been maintained. Make sure you turn it down enough that it’s not continuously jiggling, as that releases too much water. That can be an issue if you’re canning something with a long can time, like sweet potatoes, which take 90 minutes to pressure can. If the weight is jiggling constantly and releasing steam then the canner might run dry.
With a shorter canning time, like the 25 minutes required for bone broth, it’s less of an issue. Still, it’s a good practice to learn the right stove setting to keep your canner at the right temperature. On my stove, it’s halfway between 2 and 3 (out of 10) on the front power burner. That equates to “medium-low”. You’ll need to experiment with your own stove.
When 25 minutes has passed, turn off the heat and allow the pressure canner to come back to room temperature naturally. DO NOT REMOVE THE CANNING WEIGHT until the canner is back to room temperature. Rapid depressurization can cause jars to break and is no fun for anyone.
The canner will take at least an hour to cool before the dial gauge reads “0” pounds pressure. Then remove the weight, and allow any remaining steam to escape before opening the canner and removing the jars.
Remove the jars. Once they’re completely cool, remove the canning rings for storage. Moisture trapped in the rings can cause them to rust shut, and then you won’t be able to open the jars. The lids are vacuum sealed on, and the rings are no longer necessary. Wipe down the jars to clean off any spilled stock, and store them in a cool dark place.
Ball canning says they’ll keep for at least 18 months. If the seal is not broken, they should be good for years.