When I wanted to make borscht recently I had to choose whether to use beef in the soup or not. I’ve made it either way, and both have excellent flavors. I did make borscht without beef or beef broth when daughter Emily was going through her vegetarian phase. This time I wanted to use beef stock.
I asked my P.S. (Procurer of Soup bones/hubby) to bring home soup bones to make stock and he obligingly did. I simply put them into a 9″x13″ pan in the oven at 425° F for 40 minutes, turning once halfway through roasting, then removed the bones from the pan and put them into a large soup pot. My mom didn’t make her own beef stock; that was purely my idea, wanting to be all chef-y. I think a good pot of soup deserves the real broth, not cubes.
After I removed the caramelized bones, I put the pan onto the stove with 2 cups of water and deglazed the pan. I loosened up the lovely caramelized bits with a spatula, then poured the juices into the soup pot. I added about a gallon of water and let it come to a boil over medium high heat, then turned it down to medium low and let it simmer for 5 hours. It gave the whole house a lovely smell.
I checked the water level every hour or so to make sure it wasn’t getting too low. After 5 hours the water level had cooked down to about 3 quarts, a perfect amount for making my soup. I was feeling pleased with my beef stock making exercise; it was pretty easy! I may do that more often!
I let the pot and its contents cool for about 30 minutes, then strained the bones and bits out of the stock. I put the stock into a large bowl and refrigerated it until morning. I also cleaned the bits of beef off of the bones and refrigerated that in a small container for another recipe. My borscht recipe would be meatless and the cup of shredded beef could be used in some way later.
I have to do a disclaimer and say I do realize that most chefs put onion and carrots and celery into their stocks to give it a full range of flavors. I am usually putting those ingredients into my soup anyway, so I leave them out of the first step of just making the broth. When I decide which vegetables I am going to use, I add them to my soup and they get to remain in the soup. I just don’t like discarding vegetables. It makes no sense to me to throw away the ingredients that are making the dish taste good.
The next day I removed and discarded the hardened fat from the top of my broth. I put the broth back into a soup pot and I was ready to make soup!
2-3 lbs of beef soup bones (if you don’t find any in the meat cases, ask for them)
Place bones in a 9×13 metal pan and place in oven preheated to 425° F. Roast for 40 minutes, turning bones halfway through roasting.
Remove pan from oven and place bones in a soup pot.
Add a cup or two of water to the baking pan and place it on a burner on medium heat for a few minutes. Loosen the bottom bits and juices with a scraper or spatula. When the bottom of the pan has been deglazed, pour the juices into the soup pot.
Add about a gallon of water to the pot and bring it to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and let simmer for 5 or 6 hours. Set a timer to check the water level every hour. You want to end up with about 3 quarts of stock.
Turn off heat and let stock cool for about 30 minutes. Strain through a colander or cheesecloth. Refrigerate broth for several hours or overnight to harden the fat before using the stock.
Remove any meat from the bones and store in a separate container.