Beautiful soup & bone broth

Beautiful Soup, so rich and green,

Waiting in a hot tureen!….

Soup of the evening, beautiful Soup!

 Beautiful Soup!/ Who cares for fish, Game or any other dish?….

 Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland



I have no idea why the words “soup” and “broth” conjure up such homely comfort. Could it be because warm liquids —mother’s milk and other semi-liquid hot foods like porridge— constituted our first meals? Soup and broth bring to mind concentrated flavours of meat and aromatic vegetables, piping hot and steaming with wholesomeness. A bowl of bone broth twice or thrice weekly is Paul and Shou-Ching Jaminets’ recommendation for adequate intake of calcium, collagen, and magnesium. The fear of osteoporosis makes  high-dose calcium supplementation very attractive for older women, but rather than being beneficial, in many cases supplementation has increased rates of hip fractures and strokes,  as noted in their book, Perfect Health Diet (PHD). Other than that included in my multivitamins, I’ve never taken any additional calcium. I’ve stopped taking multivitamins since starting the PHD but do take 200 mg magnesium and 800 IU of Vit. D3. The benefits of collagen, particularly for back pain, which I have from time to time, convinced me to try the Jaminets’ grass-fed beef bone broth.

Where would I get grass-fed bones for broth in Bonn? Do I even know how to say that in German? I do now: “Gras gefüttert.” That makes for quite a mouthful: Gras gefütterten Rindsuppenknochen (grass-fed beef soup bones).  The supermarkets in my neighbourhood are quite basic, and though  the meat section in my local Edeka has ox tail and other slices of bone-in meat,  I’ve never seen any labelled specifically as “soup bones”  (Suppenknochen). The butcher shop on Bonner Talweg came immediately to mind, but unfortunately they had none. What they had was one meaty flatrib, which I was happy to take, as there was no other butcher shop in the vicinity, at least as far as I know.  “It’s more flavourful than just bones,” the woman cheerily assured me as she wrapped it up. Around the corner, Rewe turned out, on closer inspection, to have organic soup beef (Bio Rindsuppenfleisch). Funny that I missed seeing it when I checked earlier before going to the butcher. Alas, there was just one piece, so I added another non-organic pack.  Altogether the soup meat totalled about 1.17 kg (~2 lb). I shall have to investigate where in Bonn one can get grass-fed beef soup bones.

For some reason, the rib meat from the butcher was a bit whiffy and greyish-maroon so I rinsed it thoroughly in cold water. You can see the difference clearly in the photo above:  the butcher’s meat is on the bottom left.  I didn’t rinse the other pieces as they looked and smelled wholesome. I put all the meaty bones into a pressure cooker without the lid for this preparatory stage, added enough water to cover (about 2 liters or 2000 ml; 8 cups, with 1 cup = 250 ml), and brought all to a simmer. A bit of scum rose to the surface, and I lowered the heat further to encourage more scum to be exuded. This time a fair amount filled the surface: I raised the heat to quickly bring all to a boil and turned off the heat at once. I rinsed the parboiled bones to get rid of all blood and other residue. There was a lot of congealed brown residue at the bottom and sides of the pot, which needed a vigorous scrubbing. The liquid smelled good and meaty even at this point, and I was rather sorry to throw it out as I hate wasting food. I was tempted at first to just skim off the scum, as I have seen my mother do when she made beef soup. In the end, I decided to follow the Jaminets’ directions, threw out the parboiling liquid, and returned the rinsed meat into the pot.

 However, I departed from the Jaminets’ pure bone and water broth recipe by adding aromatics: leek and ginger. I didn’t peel the ginger — just cut it into three and pounded them with the flat side of a cleaver. As long as it’s been washed, there’s no need to peel ginger for stock or soup. I secured the lid of the pressure cooker, set the pressure to low, and turned the heat to medium. Once the steam started to hiss from the vents (signalling that the designated pressure has been reached), I reduced the heat to a minimum and let the pressure work its magic for an hour. (It’s a totally different pressure cooker from the one I had in the UK, so I’m still a bit wary of using it.)

The reason that the Jaminets do not add any flavouring vegetables to their broth is to make it keep longer under refrigeration. I’m following my taste buds: as the Jaminets themselves say, if it tastes good, it will also be good healthwise. As well, my “soup bones” were actually mostly meat with very few bones. The broth was indeed very tasty even without salt, and I also added it to other dishes during the week. It kept very well for 10 days in the fridge. It could probably have lasted longer, but M and I finished it all by then. The meat, despite the hour’s pressure cooking, retained plenty of flavour. As the Jaminets make as many as 3 batches of broth from the same bones, I froze the few bones from this batch and intend to reuse them when I can find more bones.