So What's the Deal with Bone Broth, Anyway?

With the opening of Portland's first bone broth bar, we ask the question on everyone's mind: isn't that just soup without stuff in it?

By Allison Jones August 6, 2015

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Tressa Yellig behind the counter at Broth Bar

Image: Allison Jones

Portland's first dedicated bone broth bar is now open, and the internet critics are raging. "Um, isn't that just stock?" "What a racket. 'Bone Broth' is soup without the s*** in it." "I can make this at home, and they're selling it for $5 a cup? I'm in the wrong business." 

It's time to let the broth speak for itself (or at least through its biggest local defender). Tressa Yellig of Salt, Fire & Time, the company behind NE Portland's new Broth Bar, brought retail bone broth to Portland in 2009 (long before broth became the “It Ingredient” of celebrity detoxes and the butt of Facebook jokes). Here, Yellig explains what separates her small-batch broths from stock, and why her broth has earned a loyal following of fans who credit her products with restoring health during and after cancer treatments and other major health crises.

What is bone broth, exactly?

We take bones from pasture raised, grass-fed and finished animals from local farmers that do not use antibiotics or hormones and simmer them for as long as 72 hours with organic vegetables, herbs, and raw cider vinegar to flavor the minerals that slowly steep into a rich, gelatinous bone broth.

Isn’t bone broth the same as stock?

Broth made from bones is one of the oldest traditional foods and remedies. Bone broth and stock are similar, but the main difference is the addition of the cider vinegar in the cooking process of bone broth, which begins the process of leaching the minerals out of the bones. It is then cooked for as long as three days at a low temperature to preserve the gelatin and marrow content which can be lost at a simmer. The average cooking stock is created mostly for flavor, has more meat, and is usually simmered for about 30 minutes. There is nutrition in it, but the focus is on flavor—with bone broth, the focus is on the nutrient content, specifically, the gelatin and minerals present.

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Image: Allison Jones

What is so healthy about bone broth?

It improves digestion by normalizing stomach acids, it aids in joint mobility, it protects the body when protein sources are scarce, it restores mineral balance and electrolytes, and it's very soothing for the nervous system.

Do you have anything to say to the haters out there?

I think that anytime you take a simple food and give it more time and attention than people are used to, it’s bound to raise some eyebrows. Many years ago, people were up in arms about coffee being fancied up by coffee shops serving espresso, when a simple cup of coffee that people were used to buying for 75 cents became a $3 latte. Another example is bread. Of course you can make it at home, but will it turn out the same as when made by a professional baker who sources their grains locally, mills them in-house, and leavens it naturally overnight? People who are seeking quality and transparency in their food are my customer base, and I’m proud of creating a truly quality product for them. Can anyone make bone broth at home? Of course! But do you have three days to watch the stove, and access to bones from pasture-raised animals on a regular basis? We put the time and care into making bone broth convenient for our customers to incorporate it into their daily lives. 

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Broth Bar's add-in options

Image: Allison Jones

About Broth Bar, now open at 115 NE Sixth: The small, chic 800-square-foot Broth Bar features a rotating selection of bone broths—including chicken, beef, turkey, lamb, pork, and bison—with optional add-in “bundles” to turn a mug of broth into a meal, from seasonal kraut and kelp noodles to chickpea miso, grated turmeric, ginger, and soft boiled eggs. A self-serve condiment bar takes the customization even farther, with a dash of tamari, Hot Mama hot sauce, housemade seaweed gomasio, and a variety of salts. The bright, white-tiled bar is also serving shots of kraut brine by the ounce, four varieties of Salt, Fire & Time’s kombucha on tap, and a micro-market stocking hard-to-find supplements, high-quality butter, energy bars, coffee replacements, and more.

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