by H. W. Moss
Cartilage is a type of flexible connective tissue which holds the human body together and allows resilience to the stress of gravity. Unfortunately, cartilage seems to disappear from the body over time. Loss of cartilage causes joint pain and can lead to a variety of health issues.
Another reason Bette Davis said, “Old age ain’t no place for sissies.”
Cartilage is composed of glucosamine, a natural component of the human body, and chondroitin which resists compression, aka gravity. Although studies have found little or no benefit from supplementing the diet with these substances, neither is there evidence of harm by doing so.
Glucosamine and chondroitin are available over the counter in capsule or tablet form as food supplements. Joint Juice is the trade name of a product that claims the daily amount of easily absorbed glucosamine and chondroitin you should drink is 1,500 mg.
The FDA does not regulate supplements which do not claim to be a cure. Supplements are categorized as food. Glucosamine and chondroitin are marketed as providing the body with certain nutrients that are not consumed in sufficient amounts. In fact, at the Joint Juice website is this caveat: These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. The products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
Thus, no claim that glucosamine and chondroitin are a treatment for or have any effect on or control any disease is here being made. In other words, they are a food supplement, and since they are found in all living animals and many sea foods, they probably can’t hurt.
Nor is it even a proven fact that cartilage can be replaced. But it lies within the realm of possibility that if you consume cartilage it may offset your body’s loss. Sources of glucosamine and chondroitin are animal bones, bone marrow, fungus cell walls and shellfish shells.
In other words, home brew and boiled bones.
However, food supplements and drinks cost money. To get free glucosamine and chondroitin I boil bones and make soup part of my diet.
I do not believe store bought broth is the same thing.
Boiling leftover animal parts including fat and skin and bones of the chicken, beef, lamb, pig or fish I had for dinner costs nothing except the heat to boil water for at least eight hours.
Cartilage breaks down when boiled. Glucosamine melts or liquefies at 302 degrees Fahrenheit, 150 Celsius, easily obtained on a stove top.
The soup base I am talking about contains melted cartilage. Unless you’ve boiled a chicken or turkey carcass for a day, you don’t get the full measure of the goodness contained within and between the bones.
There seems to be no distinction between any animal cartilage. I save chicken, beef, lamb, pork bones and fat, cooked or removed before cooking, and freeze these ordinarily wasted parts. I also save the tails of shrimp and fish heads and all fish bones. But because I do not enjoy a fishy soup all the time, they are boiled and saved separately.
Save these otherwise wasted parts in the freezer. They can remain there indefinitely, although you probably do not want to let years go by before using them.
When it comes time to prepare the soup base, empty all the frozen containers into a pot and fill with water to cover. Bring this to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and continue on low boil for at least eight hours adding water as needed. The level in the pot will drop as the bones separate and cartilage dissolves.
I have left a covered pot on the stove for days, turning it off when not able to watch it. Never leave the house with the heat on. Always turn the burner off even if you are stepping out only for a minute. This is true of all cooking, not just boiling bones.
Eventually the solid material will be rendered and the liquid becomes a golden brown. At that point the bones and fat are no longer useful.
It is important to distinguish between a sieve and a filter. A sieve is for straining water from spaghetti or, in this case, bones and tissue from the golden liquid.
Separate the liquid from the solids and throw the bones and skin away. You should have a bowl of golden to brown liquid which is placed in a refrigerator over night. The following day, a thick layer of fat should have risen to the surface and congealed. Remove and discard this fat.
The cooled liquid should be gelatinous or like brown jell-o. Heat until melted, but do not boil this gelatin. A strainer has smaller meshes than a sieve. Line a strainer with a paper towel.
Strain the liquid through the paper towel. This is one reason I never buy colored paper towels. This may require changing towels if they get clogged up and cease allowing the liquid to pass through.
Once filtered, you should have several cups of soup base.
Use this to make any soup, but also for gravy, rice, macaroni, noodles, almost any recipe that calls for water. I substitute half the water with half this liquid. I freeze the liquid in baggies and use them as necessary.