Stocks are an important component of many cuisines, and the US Army was no exception. Stock was used for soups, stews, gravies, hash, meatloaf, pot pies, and nearly any savory dish requiring the addition of a liquid. It could also be served as a clear soup after being seasoned. I believe that understanding how to make stock is essential to the authentic re-creation of many historical dishes.
The different recipes for stock in this post are noted by their year of introduction. This post covers US Army stocks until the latter part of World War 2, when the methods of making stocks became much more diverse.I will address the late WW2 and post-WW2 stocks in a later post.
The instructions for maintaining a stockpot in the US Army’s 1896 Manual for Army Cooks is taken nearly verbatim from British Army cooking manuals of that period. As refrigeration was generally not available, it was recommended that stock not be made in the summer months. In the winter months it could be made twice a week.
4 pounds fresh lean beef
1 gallon cold water.
(2 kg beef to 4 liters of water)
1 soup bone
2 onions, sliced
Put the meat, bone and a tablespoonful of salt into a pot with the cold water.
Simmer for 7.5 to 8 hours.
One hour before the stock is cooked, put in the sliced onion.
Pepper, and, if necessary, salt, a few minutes before straining.
When cooked, strain while hot through a colander into the vessel in which it is to be kept,
preferably an earthen jar, put it away in a cool place to stand over night.
In the morning the stock will be a jelly, with a layer of fat on top.
Take off this fat and use it as drippings for cooking purposes.
By 1910 the instructions for making stock had become even simpler, with beef retaining its status as the primary meat being utilized. Even chicken soup was made, not with chicken stock, but with beef stock to which chicken, or in later versions, “chicken scraps” (bones, wing tips, necks, legs, etc.) were added.
Place bones in a stock pot and add cold water until the bones are covered by 4 to 6 inches of water.
Simmer until all the meat has become loose.
(At this point some of the stock could be used, if needed.)
Trim the meat from the bones, saw or crack the bones, and return them to the pot.
Add more water if necessary and simmer for 6 to 9 hours.
The stock was cooled and the grease skimmed off. The stock could be seasoned by the “judicious use” of pepper, celery, bacon or parsley, and/or by addition of vegetables (types unspecified).
By 1916, soup stock was required to be made every day or two. In 1916 the previous procedure was slightly modified:
The bones and meat were added to cold water and allowed to sit at room temperature for several hours, but I definitely do not recommend this step!.
The bones, meat and water would be brought to a simmer and simmered for a total of 6 hours.
The bones would be removed and the meat trimmed after 2 hours of simmering
The following recipe remained in effect until the 1944 version of the US Army’s recipe manual. By 1935, US Army cookbooks stipulated that “a pot for soup stock should be found in every kitchen”, and stock was now made daily, or whenever sufficient bones were available. Contrary to modern standards of food safety, stock was not always refrigerated. In warm weather if the stock was kept for more than 24 hours and had turned sour, it was then sterilized by being brought to a boil (I certainly do not recommend this. If not being used immediately, stock should be cooled quickly and refrigerated or frozen for later use).
1 pound of meat and bones for each quart of water
(500 g of meat and bones to 1 liter of water)
Heat slowly to a simmer and add salt (it is recommended to salt lightly, as evaporation will concentrate the flavor)
Simmer for 4 to 5 hours and then cool the stock.
When the fat has risen to the top and hardened it ma\y be removed.
Fat was not removed from the stock until the stock was ready to be used: the fat acted as a preservative by sealing out air.