Los Angeles native, Jenny Spring Shepherd, spent time living in Australia before settling in Oak Park with her husband and children nearly eight years ago. She had an extensive background in public relations with boutique agencies before crossing the ocean to live in our village, but never had a desire to work for herself.
As a recent transplant to the village, mother of three, and long-time fitness/yoga enthusiast, Shepherd was looking for women to work out with and Mom Mail connected her with a bunch of like-minded ladies. Tight friendships emerged and led her to co-found the Best Foot Forward Running Club in 2013.
Building the club was Shepherd’s first foray into self-employment.
Seeking work-life balance through the running club helped Shepherd to recognize her own desire to put a local spin on her work in public relations. She established Jenny Shepherd Public Relations (JSPR) and is proud to focus the bulk of her work on local fitness establishments.
It turns out, self-employment suited Shepherd nicely.
In the summer of 2018 a friend introduced Shepherd, an avid homecook and passionate soup-maker, to an outdoor smoker. After learning the ropes, our curious cook snagged her own smoker and started getting creative in the kitchen. Up first? Beef jerky. In fact, Shepherd made so much beef jerky in those early days of owning a backyard smoker that her kids will no longer eat it.
“Let’s just say, I go all out until I get a recipe right,” says Shepherd, “but I admit I had a bit of a beef jerky obsession for a while.”
After smoking a whole turkey last November, Shepherd was confronted with a smoked carcass rather than roasted bones when it came time to turn the last bits of her Thanksgiving feast into a hearty broth. Despite the difference, Shepherd proceeded as usual with her broth making and the results were sublime.The smoked turkey bones gave the batch of broth a richness and depth she had never experienced before. It had a comforting mouth feel and such complex flavor Shepherd immediately wanted to sip it like a tea. Truth be told, she had a broth-related epiphany.
And in that moment Shepherd’s Smoked Bone Broth was born.
Hyper-trendy, collagen-rich, bone broth is making a splash on the culinary scene because of its health benefits and healing properties. Mineral-rich bone broth is thought to promote good gut health, ease the discomfort of aching joints, and boost the immune system. Additionally the powerful sipper promotes healthy skin and may even support healthy weight loss. While trendy today, bone broth consumption isn’t a new concept. The healing properties of bone-broth based soups have links to ancient times and have been passed down through the generations. Most every culture in the world has bone-based soups woven into their cuisine. Asian breakfast soups, Jamaican cow foot soup and Jewish chicken soup are all precursors to our current broth sipping trend. Unfortunately, convenient store bought broths often skip the bones in favor of powdered bouillon rendering them far less nutritious over all.
Shepherd’s Smoked Bone Broth, however, embraces old-school cooking techniques to bring health and wellness benefits back to broth without sacrificing flavor. With all the work done for busy cooks, Shepherd’s broth also offers the convenience of store bought products.
The road to the perfect sip of Shepherd’s Smoked Bone Broth began as a series of experiments. Over the course of three weeks Shepherd varied the types of meats and bones used in her product.
“I worked with just about every combination of chicken, pork and beef possible,” says Shepherd with a laugh, “and believe me, I got a few side-long glances when my shopping cart was full of femur bones and chicken feet!”
In the end Shepherd, who was focused on taste first when developing her recipe, settled on whole chickens as the base for her bone broth. She brines the birds with sugar and salt for 24 hours before sending them to the smoker overnight. The combination of brined and smoked birds yields deeply browned chickens that aid in bringing both bold flavor and vivid color to the finished broth. After removing the breast meat from the cooked chickens Shepherd then pressure cooks the smoked chicken in water studded with a combination of aromatics including ginger, carrot and celery; adding a secret blend of spices helped the recipe finally click into place.
Although the recipe had become consistent, perfecting a bulk broth-making method proved equally challenging. The first time Shepherd pressure cooked the birds the ceiling in her kitchen almost fell off. Excessive steam and condensation caused the paint and dry wall to peel away and forced her to move her pressure cooker outdoors. Unfortunately, with both the smoker and large-scale pressure cooker operating simultaneously, Shepherd’s cooking method overloaded the electrical system and blew all the fuses in her Oak Park home. Adjusting the brand of smoker and staggered cooking times have allowed her to streamline production.
“These days I am up 4am babysitting birds in the smoker and I am happy doing it,” laughs Shepherd, “because this broth makes people happy!”
Friends kept telling Shepherd she should sell her chicken-forward smoked bone broth. On a whim, she put out a brief message on the ever-powerful Oak Park Working Mom’s Facebook page offering her broth for purchase. Shepherd was surprised by the sudden and sincere interest in her product.
“The response was swift,” says Shepherd, “I had more than 70 orders after a single post and they hadn’t even tasted the broth it yet!”
Demand exceeded supply almost immediately, but Shepherd turned to her trusty smokers to make enough broth fill the orders. Reaction to her product was positive and Shepherd has started to believe she has a special product to share with a broader audience. What started as personal experiment had suddenly morphed into a businesses with loads of potential.
Shepherd, who continues her work at JSPR, knows she is at a crossroads when it comes to her broth making business. She is seeking counsel and carefully considering her best next step. She is open to making a move to a shared commercial kitchen to support her expansion efforts and has not closed herself off to the possibility she may need out source chickens smoked to her specifications if demand becomes too large.
“This was never a plan; ” says Shepherd of her growing business, “the only thing I know for certain right now is my recipe and I believe I am on the front end of something very exciting.”
Shepherd’s Smoked Bone Broth is one to watch.
Fun Facts and Key Details:
- Jenny Spring Shepherd’s seven year old daughter, Avery, says her mom’s broth tastes “like sipping a hug.”
- Visit the Shepherd’s Smoked Bone Broth website for details and like them on Facebook for real-time updates about broth availability.
- Shepherd’s Smoked Bone Broth is sold as a fresh product in 32-ounce mason jars ($20 each) and keeps for seven days in the refrigerator or several months in the freezer. Consumers are encouraged to heat the broth and sip it as you would enjoy a cup of tea in the afternoon. Additionally the broth can be used as nutritious base for soups as desired.
- Folks returning jars will receive a discount on their broth purchases.
- Want to try before you buy? Shepherd’s Smoked Bone Broth samples will be available at Bite Nite on January 25th. If you are lucky enough to have a ticket to this sold out event be sure to savor a sip!
- Cool connection: The logo for Shepherd’s Smoked Bone Broth was designed by Yearbook Studios in Forest Park and they also designed our Oak Park Eats logo.