Bone Stock for Soup

vintage ad for canned soup

Soup bones have served as a base for many a delicious stew and soup over the centuries. An 1878 edition of the American Agriculturist praises the soup bone for its easy versatility: “Any good lean meat may be used for soup, for it is the juice of the meat that is the essential principle of meat soup. But bones contain gelatin, which is chiefly useful in giving body to the soup,” an article from the journal informs us. Indeed, soup bones not only give soup a lovely body — they also impart numerous beneficial vitamins and minerals to the stock. The Agriculturist claims that shin and leg bones make the best soup, but certainly any type of bone will greatly improve the flavor and nutritional profile of any vegetable soup.

Certainly soup bones, which can be had for under a dollar from your local butcher, are a most economical addition to one’s weekly shopping list. A thick and hearty soup can be made from a single bone and a few vegetables of one’s choice.

The 1898 New Galt Cook Book offers a recipe for a tasty stock made from soup bones. Add any vegetable you wish to this stock; parsnips, carrots, onions and kale make for a most tasty soup. If your budget allows, stir in strips of stew meat to make a more hearty meal, though this is unnecessary given that the bone alone does a fine job of thickening the soup stock. And though the recipe below suggests you break the bones into small pieces, this need not be done; with enough boiling (about one hour) the gelatin will be able to thicken the stock without the bones having to be broken.

Bone Stock for Soup

Bones of any meat which has been dressed, as sirloin bone, leg of mutton bone, etc., two scraped carrots, one stick celery, enough cold water to cover the bones or enough of the liquor left from braising meat to cover them, one spoonful of salt. Break the bones into very small pieces, put them into a stew pan with the carrots and celery, cover them with cold water or cold braise liquor and let it boil quickly till the scum rises. Skim it off and throw in some cold water when the scum will rise again. This must be done two or three times till the stock is quite clear, then draw the pan from the fire [or heat] and let it stew for two hours till all the goodness is extracted from the bones; strain it off and let it stand all night. The next day, take off the grease [from the top of the soup stock] very carefully and lift it from the sediment at the bottom of the pan. It will then be fit for use.


Baumgarthuber, Christine. Fermented Foods: The History and Science of a Microbiological Wonder. Reaktion Books, 2021.

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