During the weeks before Christmas my father-in-law spent 12 days in the hospital with concerns related to his digestive system. This was the "family emergency" that required me to put my acupuncture clients on hold. Treatments for my father-in-law included antibiotics, laxatives, days of IV fluids with nothing by mouth, and days of a liquid only diet before he was allowed to have solid food again. To say that this was a stressful time for our family is a bit of an understatement. Thankfully he was released on Christmas Eve and has been home and recovering well ever since.

After so much time in the hospital and with so much physical stress to his body, one of our primary concerns when he was released was to help heal his gut and make sure he was getting as much accessible nutrition as possible. To do that, we turned to one of the best nutrition sources out there- homemade, slow-cooked bone broth.

Because of the slow-cooked nature of bone broth, it does require some advance planning, but the ingredients and methods are simple. You just need a large stock pot, bones, water, salt, and any kind of vinegar. Almost any bones will work, but in our case we had venison bones available. I've made excellent bone broth with the leftovers from a whole, roasted chicken. Beef bones make excellent stock and some people like to roast them in the oven for 30 minutes first to add flavor. While you can add vegetables to your stock, they aren't necessary. We do sometimes save and freeze the ends to onions, celery, and parsley to add to broth.

Place your bones in the stock pot. Add a tablespoon of salt, a tablespoon or two of vinegar and any vegetables you are using. Don't worry, you won't taste the vinegar in the end product and it helps to pull the nutrients out of the bones. Pour water over everything until it is covered, turn your stove on medium high, and put a lid on the pot.

Once your bone broth is simmering, reduce the heat until you are seeing a few bubbles rise to the top; about 180 degrees. Now just let it cook. After a few hours you can taste it for initial flavor; don't be surprised if it needs more salt or tastes a bit weak. The longer you let the stock cook, the better the taste will be. Feel free to let it cook at a very light simmer overnight, or even up to a week. Simply add water each time you take broth out, and your stock will keep giving and giving. For even easier temperature control (and to free up a burner on your stove), start your stock by putting everything into a large crock pot. Cook it on high initially and then turn it to low once it starts to simmer.

Even if you haven't had a major health crisis lately you can still benefit from homemade bone broth or stock. It boosts your immune system, calms your digestion, provides a great source of accessible nutrients, and just plain tastes delicious. Try a steaming cup of bone broth on a cold day and enjoy all of the benefits of this traditional food.