Sunday, September 30, 2012

Great Curries of World War 2

Having been MIA for awhile, I feel as though I must assuage my guilt with a large post of multiple recipes. I decided to go with curry, a dish which found wide appeal in the military services of many nations in the 20th century. Easy to prepare, tasty, and capable of utilizing a wide variety of ingredients, curry was easily adapted to army cuisines.
There is some merit to the claim that the British Army is the father of curry as we know it today. As with many aspects of culinary history, the exact details are obscured through the passage of time. The modern versions of curry and curry powder are British adaptations of local Indian cuisine, originating in the 18th century with British soldiers stationed in India. Even the word “curry” is an Anglicized version of (depending on the source) a type of south Indian cuisine. The recipes and resulting spice mix dubbed “curry powder”, purportedly concocted specifically to cater to British tastes, were brought back to Britain. From there, curry spread throughout the British empire, to the USA, Japan and numerous other nations.

Curry, British Army, 1940-1944

US                               Metric                        Ingredients
28 oz                           700 g                           beef (boneless)
5 oz                             145 g                           onions
1 tbsp                          12 ml                           tomato paste
2.5 oz                          75 g                             flour
.35 oz                          9 g                               dried coconut
.65 oz                          18 g                             dried apple rings
1.25 oz                        35 g                             dripping
16 oz                           450 ml                         beef stock

1.      Soak the apple rings and coconut overnight in barely enough water to cover.
2.      Cut the beef into ½” (1.3 cm) pieces.
3.      Cut the onions, and apple rings into ¼” (0.6 cm) pieces.
4.      Heat a little oil in a pot. Add the onions and fry to a light golden color.
5.      Add the beef and cook until lightly browned.
6.      Add the curry powder and cook for 5 minutes.
7.      Add the flour and cook “to a sandy texture”.
8.      Add coconut, apple rings, tomato puree, boiling stock, bay leaf
9.      Bring to a boil and simmer for 1½ hours.
10.  Serve with boiled rice.

For the 1945 version, reduce the amount of beef to 18 ounces/510 grams (wartime shortages) and omit the coconut and tomato paste (more wartime shortages).

Curry, Australian Army, 1942-44

     This recipe for curry included chutney, “if available”: an indicator of wartime shortages. Use bottled or homemade chutney, to taste. The amounts of lemon juice, carrots, tomato and chutney could vary, according to what was available. Australian Army stock was made by simmering bones and meat scraps, covered with salted water, one ounce of salt to one gallon of water. Water in which vegetables were cooked was saved and added to stocks and soups.  
     Specimen menus for the Queensland Lines of Communications Area included curry and curried sausage as a part of the breakfast meal. Curried sausage was most likely prepared by substituting sausage for beef in the following recipe.   

US                               Metric                         Ingredients
20 oz                           570 g                           beef or mutton
4.5 oz                          125 g                           onions
3 oz                             80 g                             carrots
1 tbsp                          12 ml                           tomato paste
1 tsp                            4.5 g                            curry powder
1 each                          1 each                          apple
32 oz                           35 g                             sultanas (golden raisins)
16 fl oz                        475 ml                         meat stock
                                                                       juice of ½ lemon

1.      Peel the apples, onions and carrots.
2.      Grate carrots, cut the onions and apples into small pieces.
3.      Trim surplus fat from meat and cut into bite sized pieces.
4.      Place a little dripping (rendered beef fat) into a pot and cook the meat until browned on all sides.
5.      Add the rest of the ingredients, and enough stock to cover.
6.      Cover the pot and simmer for 2 to 3 hours.
7.      Serve with boiled potatoes or rice. 

Curry, Japanese Army, 1912(?)-1945

     In the latter part of the 19th century, the modernization and westernization of Japan was in full swing. Dietary habits underwent a drastic change as western cuisine was introduced. In 1872 the first curry recipe was published in Japan. Despite its comparative expense, curry soon became highly popular. In 1912 the recipe for Japanese curry was invented, and soon thereafter adopted by the Japanese Army.
     The Higashiya corporation was founded in 1923 to produce and market curry powder made in Japan. Prior to that, Japan imported curry powder produced by the C&B Corporation in Great Britain. In 1949 the company name of Higashiya was changed to S&B Foods Inc. S&B Foods still produces curry powder, available worldwide, and is recommended to add that touch of authenticity to Japanese Army curry.

US                  Metric             Ingredients
10 oz              280 g               beef, pork, mutton, poultry, shellfish
14 oz              400 g               potatoes
3 oz                80 g                 carrot
12 oz              320 g               onions
1.5 oz             40 g                 flour
0.7 oz             20 g                 lard, divided into two portions
.14 oz             4 g                   curry powder
48 fl oz           400 ml           water
to taste             to taste             salt

1.      Heat half of the lard in a small pan over low heat.
2.      Put the flour into the hot lard, and mix well.
3.      Add the curry powder and mix well.
4.      In a separate pot over medium-high heat, heat the other portion of lard until melted.
5.      Add the beef and a little of the onions and sauté until beef is lightly browned.
6.      Add water, bring to a boil, add the carrots, potatoes and rest of the onions.
7.      Reduce to a simmer, cook until vegetables are tender.
8.      Add the curry roux and mix in to thicken.
9.      Salt to taste

Serve with rice and barley (more on this coming in a later post).

Curry of Beef, US Army, 1928-1944

The US Army’s earlier version of curry was perhaps the simplest of military curries. The US Army also produced a recipe for curried rice, which consisted of mixing ½ tsp of curry powder (per 4 servings) with a little water and mixing it into the cooked rice. With the publication of Army Recipes in August 1944 the curried rice recipe was dropped, although earlier recipe manuals could still be utilized.

US                               Metric                         Ingredients

20 oz                           570 g                           beef,
.64 oz                          18 g                             flour
½ tsp                           2.5 g                            curry powder
to taste                         to taste                        salt and pepper

1.      Preheat oven to 200-250° F (95-120°C).
2.      Cut the beef into 1-inch cubes and place into an oven-proof pan.
3.      Cover with cold beef stock or water and season to taste with curry powder.
4.      Cook for 3 hours or until beef is tender.
5.      When nearly done, make a batter with the flour and a little water.
6.      Add the flour batter to the meat and thicken slightly.

Meat Curry, US Army 1944-1957

     In 1944 the US Army more than made up for its earlier shortcomings (some would call it over-reacting) in the realm of curry. The new recipe could utilize beef, lamb, pork, or ham; apples and onions were added, “a l’anglaise”. In addition to tripling the amount of curry powder, into the mix also went cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and allspice.
     Please note that the recipe calls for meat that is pre-cooked. Meat cooked by any method, or leftover meat can be utilized. This recipe survived virtually unchanged until 1957, when the US Army changed the recipe to “Lamb Curry”, dropping the beef and pork options.

US                               Metric                       Ingredients
1¼ oz/5 tbsp                35 g                            flour
2½ oz/6 tbsp                75 g                            fat
10 fl oz                        300 ml                         evaporated milk*
10 fl oz                        300 ml                         water (for milk)*
1 tsp                            7 g                              salt  
1½ tsp                         7 g                              curry powder
pinch                           pinch                           red pepper
pinch                           pinch                           cinnamon
pinch                           pinch                           cloves, ground
pinch                           pinch                           nutmeg
pinch                           pinch                           allspice
2.5 oz                          75 g                            onions
4 oz                             115 g                          apples
16 oz                           450 g                          meat, cooked, 1-inch dice

*fluid 20 fluid ounces/600 ml fresh milk may be substituted for the evaporated milk and water.

1.      Heat half of the fat in a pan, mix in the flour and stir until smooth.
2.      Mix the milk and water together in a separate pan and heat to a simmer
3.      Add the milk to the flour mixture, heat to boiling, and boil for 3 minutes while stirring constantly.
4.      Remove from heat or maintain over low heat, stirring occasionally.
5.      In a separate pan, mix the remaining fat, salt, pepper and spices together.
6.      Add onions, apple and meat.
7.      Cover and heat to boiling; reduce heat and simmer for 30 to 45 minutes.
8.      Add the meat mixture to the heated white sauce.
9.      Serve with boiled rice.

Monday, September 17, 2012

“C-Rat” Pound Cake, US Army, 1958-1980

MCI (“C-Rat”) Pound Cake, US Army, 1958-1980

     After 1958, the US military ended procurement of C-Rations. The replacement was the Meal, Combat, Individual (abbreviated MCI), which was produced from 1958 until 1980, when they began to be phased out of service in preparation for replacement by another gustatory delight, the MRE.
The MCI was not the same as the C-Ration, and was never officially designated as such. Although MCI cases were marked with a large “C”, it was not because they were C-Rations. “C” was the U.S. Armed Forces subclass designation for Combat Rations under the category of supply Class I -  Subsistence. Subsistence subclasses were:
A - Nonperishable
C - Combat Rations
R - Refrigerated
S - Other Nonrefrigerated
W – Water

     But history has shown us that soldiers have always been, and continue to be, practical and pragmatic creatures. Here the train of thought was that if it looks like a C-Rat, it tastes like a C-Rat, it comes in cans like a C-Rat, and it’s labeled like a C-Rat, then it must be a C-Rat. So to millions of soldiers, Marines, sailors and airmen, they were and will always be remembered as C-Rats.

However, for the purposes of this blog, I will designate recipes for MCI components as such, to avoid confusion with recipes for C-Rations of the WW2 and Korean War eras (which I am currently researching, among countless other topics).

Recently, my wife asked if I had posted any dessert recipes on my blog. I responded in the negative, as I was concentrating on the soups, stews and breads that were the staples in many armies. When asked why I should include desserts at this point, the answer (which should have been obvious to me) was, “If anybody deserves to have some dessert, it’s a soldier!” As usual, the boss’s logic was unassailable.

MCI Pound Cake, US Army, 1958-1980

     The recipe is quite simple, as are most pound cake recipes. But please do observe the mixing times given in the recipe. There is no leavening, so the long mixing times are needed to insure that sufficient air is introduced into the batter. 

    I selected the pound cake as it was arguably the most favored food component of the MCI. One canned pound cake was often equal in trade value to an entire MCI meal or several (pre-1973) packs of cigarettes from the accessory packs. Here we will resurrect that cherished treat, and restore it to its former glory.
The finished "C-Rat" Pound Cake. 
Pound and other MCI cakes had straight sides, as they were normally baked or steamed in the partially sealed can, which allowed gasses to escape during baking, and then sealed completely when cooled. I am currently experimenting with trying to get the shape exactly the same, but in the interim you can use jumbo-sized muffin/cupcake tins. To most aficionados, appearance is not as important as the C-Rat Pound Cake experience itself. You will also need some jumbo-sized cupcake liners.
After filling the baking containers with batter, you will need to cover them tightly with aluminum foil. You may grease the underside of the aluminum foil to minimize sticking, but this is not necessary.

Yield: 12 individual pound cakes, 2.2 ounces/62.5 g net weight each


7 oz                 200 g                           cake flour
7 oz                 200 g                           shortening
7 oz                 200 g                           sugar
6 oz                 170 g                           whole eggs (3 large eggs)
2 each              2 each                          large egg yolks*
¼ tsp               2 g                               salt 
½ tsp               2.5 ml                          vanilla extract

*scale the three eggs; add enough egg yolks to make a total of 7 ounces/200 g
Pound cake ingredients. Simple, no?

1.      Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, cream the sugar and shortening.
2.      Combine the salt and flour. Add the flour in thirds and mix until incorporated.
3.      Add two of the whole eggs.
4.      Mix for 7 minutes on medium speed.
5.      Add the rest of the eggs and mix for 3 minutes on low speed.
6.      Scale at 2.3 ounces/65 g (approximately ½ cup) of batter for each cake
7.      Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake at 350° F for about 40 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Helpful hints:
·         It's easier to fill the cupcake liners before they're in the pan, then carefully lift and place them in the pan.
·         If you're using a scale, you can place the liner on the scale and fill it to the desired weight.
·         After placing the filled liners into the pan, bang it on a flat surface a few times to settle the batter somewhat.
·         The batter is somewhat stiff, but don't worry about leveling it on top. It will level out when it bakes.

The batter in the pan before covering with aluminum foil. 
The stiffness of the batter is apparent.
The coffee cup was an attempt to make a straight-sided pound cake.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Soup Stock, US Army, 1896-1943

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.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Hachis de Viande, French Army, 1905

     Now that we’ve had a primer on viande de boucherie, let’s see how it was used in some recipes of “The Great War”.  Presented here are a couple of recipes for hachis. As noted in an earlier post, the English word “hash” derives from the French hachis, a dish of chopped ingredients.
     In the French Army during the pre-World War 1 period and in the early days of the war, squads prepared their own meals while in the field. The early meal of the day was the “morning soup”. During the morning meal, preparations the next meal were also performed. It was intended that the morning’s activities would consist mainly of a long march, followed by a break for the midday meal. The earlier preparations would insure that a meal could be quickly prepared once the tired and hungry soldiers halted for the meal break. This system worked well enough during peacetime maneuvers, and for what was anticipated to be a brief war of rapid movement. The war in France quickly ground down to an immobile and contracted slugfest where artillery and machine guns made any movement above ground level risky at best. Even the mere presence of smoke from cooking fires in the first line of trenches would gain the attention of German artillery observers and snipers. In such an environment, the French Army’s de-centralized system of field cooking proved to be highly inadequate. It would not be until 1915 that the French Army employed rolling field kitchens, but problems with feeding the troops in the front lines continued throughout the war.

Meat and Beans Hash, French Army, 1905
(Hachis de viande aux haricots)

The meat for this meal was cooked together with the morning soup, then de-boned and cut into small pieces.
To reproduce this recipe, use the meat to make broth. Let the broth cool and skim the fat. Presoak the beans overnight or in the morning, at least 2 hours prior to cooking. Drain the beans and discard the soaking water before adding the beans to the other ingredients.
US                               Metric                         Ingredients
24 oz                           640 g                           viande de boucherie
70 oz*                         2000 g                         potatoes
14 oz*                         400 g                           cabbage
14 oz*                         400 g                           carrots
7 oz*                           200 g                           leeks
7 oz*                           200 g                           onions
4 oz                             120 g                           lard
12 oz                           340 g                           dried beans
to taste                         to taste                        salt & pepper
68 fl oz                        2 liters                         broth
34 fl oz                        1 liter                           broth
34 fl oz                        1 liter                           water

* Weight of ingredients prior to peeling and coring

1.      Boil the meat until tender, 1-2 hours. De-bone if necessary and cut into small pieces, about 1/2 to 3/8    
      inch (1 to 1.5 cm).
2.      Cut the potatoes, cabbage, carrots and leeks into pieces about 1/2 to 3/8 inch (1 to 1.5 cm) in size.
3.      Heat the lard in a pan over medium heat and add the onions.
4.      When the onions have taken on a golden color, add two liters of broth or 1 liter of broth and 1 liter of water.
5.      Season to taste with salt and pepper.
6.      Add the beans. Simmer until the beans are nearly cooked.
7.      About 20 minutes before the beans are fully cooked, add the potatoes, cabbage, carrots and leeks.
8.      Cook until all of the vegetables are tender.
9.      Place the vegetables and broth into bowls, and add the meat on top.

Meat and Potato Hash, French Army, 1905
(Hachis  de viande aux pommes de terre)

The ingredients and preparation for this recipe is quite similar to the meat and beans hash recipe. Some salt pork is used for the fat, and the beans are replaced by an additional 800 grams/28 ounces of potatoes. 

US                               Metric                         Ingredients
24 oz                           640 g                           viande de boucherie
1½ oz                          40 g                             lard
4 oz                             120 g                           salt pork
100 oz*                       2800 g                         potatoes
14 oz*                         400 g                           cabbage
14 oz*                         400 g                           carrots
7 oz*                           200 g                           leeks
7 oz*                           200 g                           onions
to taste                        to taste                         salt & pepper
to taste                        to taste                         spices**
68 fl oz                        2 liters                          broth
34 fl oz                        1 liter                            broth
34 fl oz                        1 liter                            water

* Weight of ingredients prior to peeling and coring
** Dried spices or dried herbs commonly found in French cuisine of the time may be used, such as thyme, marjoram, bay leaf, parsley, tarragon, etc.

1.      Boil the meat until tender, 1-2 hours. De-bone if necessary and cut into small pieces, about 1/2 to 3/8 inch (1 to 1.5 cm).
2.      Cut the cabbage, carrots and leeks into pieces about 1/2 to 3/8 inch (1 to 1.5 cm) in size.
3.      Cut the salt pork into small pieces of about ¼ inch (0.5 cm) in size.
4.      Peel the potatoes, leave whole and boil until cooked.
5.      While the potatoes are cooking, in a separate pot, heat the lard over medium heat and add the onions.
6.      When the onions have taken on a golden color, add two liters of broth or 1 liter each of broth and water.
7.      Add the cabbage, carrots and leeks and cook until tender.
8.      Season to taste with salt, pepper and spices.
9.      Add the meat.
10.  Drain the potatoes and mash.
11.  Place the mashed potatoes in bowls and pour the meat and vegetables on top.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Bone Broth, French Army, 1940

This is another installment in the Stocks & Broths category.

Bone Broth, French Army, 1940
Fonds d’Os

    French military cooking manuals noted that to put the bones resulting from the deboning of meat into the daily soup pot was a wasteful and incorrect practice. The cooking time for soups was insufficient to allow the muscular and cartilaginous parts still attached to the bones to be broken down and dissolved in the broth.
     The solution to this food loss was the Fonds d’Os (literally “bone base”, a bone stock or broth). This preparation also yielded three distinct products:
1. A first quality fat that could be used as a vegetable dressing or which, mixed in equal portion with peanut oil, made an excellent fat for frying.
2. A cooked meat known as “recuperation”, with the same value as pot-au-feu meat, and could be used to make hash, croquettes, meatloaf, meat salads, etc.
3. The liquid or “bone base”, superior to ordinary broth and used as a basis for soups, meat in sauce or braised, or when colored with aromatic caramel to make a consommé.
     Any type of bones (beef, veal, pork) or poultry carcasses could be utilized for Fonds d’Os, with the exception of mutton bones, due to their strong taste. The ingredients are quite simple and easily adjustable, the amounts based on the weight of bones on hand. I recommend adjusting the amount of salt, as 1/200 of the bone weight could prove excessive for modern tastes.

Ingredient                                                       Amount
Bones, fatty skin, edible meat trim & waste,
incorrect cuts, etc.                                            available quantity
whole onions (peeled)                                       1/100 of the weight of bone               
salt                                                                   1/200 of the weight of bone                 
bouquet garni*                                                  one
water                                                                amount sufficient to completely cover the bones and other    

*normally bay leaf, a sprig of thyme and parsley stems

1.      If you have large bones round bones (such as leg or shank bones), cut them into thirds.
2.      Put into a pot the round bones first, followed by flat bones, and then the remainder of the ingredients (skin, meat trim, onions, salt, bouquet garni) to cover the flat bones.
3.      Cover completely with water and bring to a simmer. Simmer for three hours.
4.      Remove the fat layer which floats on the liquid surface. Remove any large bones and remove the meat from the bones.
5.      Return the bones to the pot and simmer for another 3 hours.
6.      After 6 hours of cooking (total), remove the bones and strain the broth through a sieve or cheesecloth.

Broth, Italian Army, 1930-1945

As promised earlier in my post on Stocks and Broths, here is the first installment of specific recipes. More will follow soon. If this is a larger than needed amount for your current needs, or if you are scaling up the recipes for stocks or broths, I recommend freezing the excess for later use (more about freezing foods later).

Broth, Italian Army, 1930-1945
Il brodo

     The Italian military’s doctrine for making broth (il brodo) varied from that of many foreign armies in leaving the meat in large pieces, adding it to water that was already simmering, and not cooking the meat to the point of disintegration. It was felt that to cut the meat into smaller pieces and placing in a pot with cold water resulted in a product that was "indigestible, stringy and tasteless".
     This recipe is scaled for 4 servings, and will yield about 3 quarts (3 liters) of broth. If you are cooking a larger amount, the meat should be cut no smaller than 1 to 1.5 kg (about 2-3 pound) pieces. Use a less expensive cut of beef with the bone in, such as chuck or shank. If you are using large cuts of beef or large soup bones, split any large bones that may not have the marrow exposed. Trim any excess fat.
     The boiled meat was removed and used for other recipes, and the broth strained and used for soups, stews, rice dishes, etc.
     Many European armies, including the British and French, used caramel to give a darker color to stocks and broths. It was optional in this Italian recipe, but nevertheless I have included the Italian military recipe for caramel. 

US                               Metric                        Ingredients
28 oz                           800 g                           meat (preferably beef)
84 fl oz                        2.5 liters                       water*
5 tsp                            27 g                             salt
2-3 each                       2-3 each                     cloves, whole
1.5 oz                          40 g                             onion, roasted (1 small or ½ medium onion)
1.5 oz                          40 g                             celery (1 medium celery stalk)
1.5 oz                          40 g                             carrots (1 medium carrot, scraped)
½ oz                            12-14 g                        parsley, fresh
Add a little tomato paste (about 2-3 tbsp/20 g), tomato sauce or some fresh tomatoes, just enough to give the broth some color.
Optional: add one bay leaf (laurel), a sprig of thyme, or a few leaves of fresh basil, and 1-2 tbsp caramel for coloring.
*If necessary, add just enough additional water to cover the meat.

1.      Peel and roast the onion in an oven or on a grill until it begins to take on a light golden brown color. Stick the cloves into the onion.
2.      Put the water into a pot over high heat.
3.      Add the salt.
4.      Rinse the meat rapidly in cold water.
5.      Put the meat in the pot when the water is almost boiling. Reduce the heat to a simmer.
6.      Add to the broth the onion, celery, carrot, parsley and tomato. If using, bay, thyme, basil and caramel, add them at this point.
7.      Skim (with a perforated ladle) any impurities that come to the surface.
8.      Simmer the broth while keeping the pot covered.
9.      Cook until the meat is tender, about 1½ to 2 hours. Do not overcook. Remove the meat when it is still a little al dente.
10.  Remove the meat and add enough water to fill the pot to the level it was at before the meat was removed.
11.  Strain the broth.

Caramel, Italian Military, 1930-1945 
Il caramel
Yield: 16 fluid ounces (or 500 ml)
In a very clean pan over medium heat, put 4 ounces (125 grams) of sugar and let melt slowly while stirring constantly with a wooden spatula. Cook until the sugar has taken on a dark red color, not blackened. At this point add 16 fl oz (500 ml) of cold water, keeping it over medium until the sugar is completely dissolved in the water. Let it cool and keep in a tightly covered bottle to use as needed.
(Note: I have rounded down the amount in US measurement, for the sake of convenience.)