Making beef soup is no picnic. It is heavy and difficult work. But it’s worth it. Because soup is irreplaceable. Even Emperor Franz Joseph in Vienna knew this.
By Bert Gamerschlag
When almost every old cookbook opens with the preparation of meat broth, when François-Josef (Sissi), who had grown up very old in Vienna, asked for “beef soup” every day (and got it, because he was the emperor), it was for this reason: Beef soup is irreplaceable. In the bourgeois kitchen, there was a pot of meat broth constantly renewed on the fire every day, from which almost all the dishes were improved with a small ladle.
An old hen can’t hurt
Today, flavor enhancers are used for this. But that doesn’t have to be the case. Because anyone who has the time and the good will can make a good broth. You get them out of tough, fresh beef. Here, youth does not count, but age: the older the animal, the better. The experience of life must be in its bones – you can taste it.
To obtain four liters of broth, add three kilos of beef to six liters of water. Adding a kilo of veal, which is also coarse, can’t hurt. In the past, an old hen was also often added; doing it today is not a mistake.
But what is “raw” meat?
These include shank and veal meat (i.e. the lower parts of the thighs of cattle), but breast meat also counts. If the meat also contains rib or thigh bones, so much the better. Do not be afraid of tendons or fat either, they give body and taste.
The meat is placed in one piece in a large pot of cold water and brought to a boil very slowly – without a lid. The longer the process and the smoother the whole process, the better the result.
The emergence of the primordial soup
Up to this point, the workload is minimal, since the stove does the heating. But when the meat and the water approach the boiling point, you have to be careful: the proteins now escape from the outer layers of the meat. This protein is cloudy, gray, ugly looking and rises to the surface of the water, which slowly rises more and more violently. There we skim it with a slotted spoon or, even better, with a fine-mesh flat sieve, again and again until no more foam forms.
This can take a good ten minutes and is an exciting process for the slightly sensitive, as there is something mystical about staring at the creation of the Primordial Soup.
Pick up till you drop
Over the next four hours – that’s roughly the duration of the subsequent boiling process – any foam that rises must be removed further. Because if you don’t skim more, the broth will turn cloudy. But you want a clear, shiny golden broth. But just take a look at the broth which gently simmers every half hour. (You can use the time in between to read.) If the water doesn’t just boil for a few minutes at first, it’s not tragic. Then, however, reduce the heat sharply, because the water should only draw, or at most swell slightly, during the entire cooking time, i.e. move in the temperature range from 90 to 95 degrees.
Three hours later…
When three hours have passed, you begin to prepare the vegetable-spicy additives that complement our broth beyond the pure meat: 1-2 halved onions (including a carrot) roasted in a pan without fat and on the cut surface until black can be prepared this way); Leek, celeriac and carrots, also parsley root – cleaned and in equal parts, together about 750 grams; also 10-15 peppercorns; 2-3 pieces of mass (mass); 2-3 bay leaves; sprigs of thyme; sprig of rosemary; little salt. In summer, the herbs included should be fresh. If there is a chicken in the pot, it should be removed at this point, as the meat is – as was its purpose – exhausted.
Vegetables, spices and herbs are now added to the meat in the broth and cooked for the last half hour – until tender. Why don’t they get to the soup earlier? Because their aroma would then disappear again, but it should remain bound in the broth.
Beef soup is hard work
So far it’s been fun – now it’s really hard work. Strain the broth (let it cool for 1-2 hours first) through a large, sturdy sieve into another saucepan (or a clean, sparkling bucket, preferably stainless steel). Discard the used rest. Let the broth sit for an hour to allow any remaining suspended matter to settle to the bottom. Don’t swirl the trub – but if you skimmed it well at first, there will be hardly any cloudy material anyway. We now find ourselves in front of about four liters of clear, golden-yellow, bubbly broth with the fat floating above. You can tell how good it is when you fill a cup with it, salt the contents and taste it.
What to do with four liters of meat broth?
Option 1: Fill 750 milliliter portions into freezer bags (fat free) and put them in the pet fridge.
Option 2: canned (also fat-free). Buy new screw top jars and put them in the dishwasher, even better boil them. Fill the glasses (for this use a fat jug, with the help of which you can pour fat-free liquid), screw and sterilize in a large saucepan in a water bath at 90 degrees for 45 minutes.
Beef soup for the visit
Is there a visitor? Open a jar or jars and pour the contents into a saucepan. Blanch freshly diced greens in salted water separately for a few minutes, remove and add to broth. Optionally, cook the soup noodles separately and add them to the soup.
Season the soup with salt and taste, adding a squeeze of lemon if desired. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve. Why is the broth salted just before serving? Because you can then reduce it to a sauce, for example for a pan-fried steak. If the broth had already been salted in the pot, the reduction of liquid would make the sauce too salty.
Does this seem awkward to you? It’s strange! That’s why you make a large quantity of it and then – depending on your appetite and your quantity – you enjoy for many months a broth which – as Franz-Josef did – makes you as old as a stone, in good health. You feel like the emperor.
Thanks for asking about Monika Hoerner’s Beef Soup from the USA. Do you also have a culinary question that burns your nails? Then send an e-mail to: email@example.com.