I started cooking early. As soon as I left home (maybe before that?) I was on it – tagliatelle, lasagna, meat with various sauces, ragù (a.k.a. “bolognese/a sauce“, the meaty one for pasta), meatballs, fish, cookies, cakes… and soup. I have always made soup. And always in the classic, “this is how you make it” version.
This is how you make it.
Fill the pot with water. Add the vegetables: carrots, celery, onion, tomatoes. Add the meat: beef bones, preferably with some marrow, chicken, and a piece of beef muscle. Add salt. Let it cook for hours, then eat. If you make a lot (quite normal for us) then freeze in handy 1/2 litre plastic bottles. That’s it. Spices can vary: I usually put pepper, bay leaves, rosemary and sometimes coriander seeds, but you can put anything you like, really.
A golden rule: if you want good soup, put the meat in the still cold water; if you want good meat (as in, you’ll eat it afterwards, maybe with mostarda di frutta and mustard) then put it in the boiling water.
Oh, some variations: cherry tomatoes can be used instead of normal tomatoes; leek instead of onion.
And that’s how I cooked it, until very recently, when I started to experiment and evolve. It started with leftover lamb bones, that were made into a lovely light soup. Then, a duck carcass. Then, one day in which there were a lot of mixed ingredients and the soup turned out amazing. And then, finally, I decided that soup was crowding my freezer and that a homemade bouillon cube was the future.
So it was.
This is what I made yesterday
What’s inside, you ask?
Celery. Carrots (you can’t see them but they’re there). Onion. Spring onion leaves. A garlic clove. Tomato. Coriander seeds. Black, white and pink pepper seeds. One cooked chicken carcass, one raw chicken carcass. Beef bones and pork bones. Pork rind (from some jamón we had finished). A teaspoonful of vinegar. Salt.
I let it cook for five hours, maybe six. The Desolation of Smaug was a very long movie.
I let it sit and cool all night, then this morning I strained it. The carcasses had basically broken up into so many tiny pieces I knew it was going to be good!
Then, I let it simmer, for about four more hours. Very low heat, checking it now and then. Be especially present and aware for the last half an hour, when the water has nearly completely evaporated and it’s just a sticky goo that you can still mix but just barely… you don’t want it to burn after all this work!
Done! Half a centimetre of oozing jus de soupe 😉
Let it cool completely, and then roll your sleeves up and scrape it into a tupperware – this part is the most boring, I have to admit. And the “cube” is more like a meat molasses, so not the easiest thing to transfer from pot to tupperware. Put some nice music on and have a cocktail ready to sip!
You can keep it in the fridge virtually for ever (2 years, probably) because of the high salinity – remember that you can taste the soup, but when it starts to reduce it becomes ever more salty and this last result is not very good to eat! None of my bouillons have lasted more than a few months because… I’ve simply finished them! Useful, cheaper and way healthier than what you can find at the supermarket.