Bone Stock for 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.

Economical Recipes From Orchard Hill Farm: Gingersnaps and Chowchow

An 1894 edition of Good Housekeeping includes a delightful and informative article on the everyday workings of a small farm in the Ozarks. The “brave and cheerful” housewife at this farm, called Orchard Hill Farm, is “a self-appointed committee of ways and means to see to it that the outgo does not exceed the income.” Indeed, the good farm wife shares a number of ingeniously economical recipes with the journalist from Good Housekeeping. For instance, upon praising the farm wife’s excellent coffee, the journalist finds that it was half sweet potato; “chop them fine, dry and roast them, then grind,” the farm wife reveals, “I use a tablespoon of sweet potato to every tablespoon of coffee.”

Below are two very economical recipes from Orchard Hill Farm: ginger snaps and chowchow, a pickled vegetable stew. Feel free to reduce the quantities given in the recipes; they are intended to feed large crowds of hungry farmhands.

Ginger Snaps

One half gallon of sorghum, two tablespoonfuls of ginger, two tablespoonfuls of salt, one teaspoonful of black pepper, one tablespoonful of cinnamon, two large cupfuls of lard, two tablespoonfuls of soda flour to make a very stiff dough. Bake quickly. This makes a bushel of ginger snaps.


Two quarts of cucumbers, two quarts of green tomatoes, two quarts of onions, two quarts of cauliflower or cabbage. Soak in a weak brine over night. Cook separately until tender. For the paste use one gallon of vinegar, one large cupful of flour, one pound of mustard, one and one half pounds of sugar. Stir the paste until it boils then pour it over the vegetables.

For the Long Christmas Fast: Kartofelny Gribnoy Sup

Devout Orthodox Christians often fast more than 200 days throughout the year. From the Great Lenten Fast in spring to the Apostle’s and Dormition fasts during the warm months of summer, times of austere fare far outnumber those of decadence and plenty. During the long Christmas fast, which lasts from late November until January 7 (the Russian Orthodox Christmas), no meat, dairy or red-colored foods reminiscent of blood may be eaten: tomatoes, beets, red peppers and even carrots are forbidden. Fish is allowed only on Saturdays and Sundays.

Such dietary restrictions may seem daunting, but throughout the ages, clever Russian cooks have developed a varied–and delicious!–repertoire of dishes to enjoy during these prolonged fasts. Cabbages stuffed with flavorful vegetables, turnips covered in currents, crisp rice cutlets in mushroom sauce and savory pumpkin puddings are just a few of the dishes that grace the Russian table during the dark months of the Christmas fast. The Russians use different oils (hemp, nut, poppy seed and pumpkin being just of a few of their favorite oils) and herbs like nettles and sorrel to change the flavor of a particular vegetable dish. The combination of flavors is endless and the resulting meat- and dairy-free dishes are as complex and satisfying as their more decadent counterparts.

Here’s a traditional recipe for kartofelny gribnoy sup (mushroom soup with potatoes) from Culinaria: Russia. It’s a dish commonly served during the long Christmas fast. Serve it with a dense sour rye bread and a green salad (but no sour cream, please!).

Kartofelny Gribnoy Sup (Mushroom Soup with Potatoes)

9 oz/250 g fresh mushrooms (porcini, chanterelles, button) cut into bite-sized pieces
1 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
2 tbsp. oil
1 lb 2 oz/500 g potatoes boiled in their skins, peeled and finely diced
1 tbsp finely chopped parsley
1 tbsp finely chopped dill
1 1/2 quarts/ 1.5 litres water or vegetable stock
Salt and pepper

Fry the mushrooms with the onion and carrot in the oil; add the potatoes and herbs; pour over the water or vegetable stock and leave the soup to simmer 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season to taste with salt and pepper.