Portable soup

Cover of Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management, 1861.

Portable soup was a method for preserving stock; it was a precursor to stock cubes. The soup was made by boiling bones and vegetables for an extraordinary amount of time until the liquid evaporated to leave a dry jelly. The soup could be later rehydrated on board ship. The British Navy first let a contract for buying portable soup in the 1750s.

Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management published in 1861 contains the following recipe for portable soup.

“INGREDIENTS – 2 knuckles of veal, 3 shins of beef, 1 large faggot of herbs, 2 bay-leaves, 2 heads of celery, 3 onions, 3 carrots, 2 blades of mace, 6 cloves, a teaspoonful of salt, sufficient water to cover all the ingredients.

Mode.—Take the marrow from the bones; put all the ingredients in a stock-pot, and simmer slowly for 12 hours, or more, if the meat be not done to rags; strain it off, and put it in a very cool place; take off all the fat, reduce the liquor in a shallow pan, by setting it over a sharp fire, but be particular that it does not burn; boil it fast and uncovered for 8 hours, and keep it stirred. Put it into a deep dish, and set it by for a day. Have ready a stewpan of boiling water, place the dish in it, and keep it boiling; stir occasionally, and when the soup is thick and ropy, it is done. Form it into little cakes by pouring a small quantity on to the bottom of cups or basins; when cold, turn them out on a flannel to dry. Keep them from the air in tin canisters.

Average cost of this quantity, 16s.

Note.—Soup can be made in 5 minutes with this, by dissolving a small piece, about the size of a walnut, in a pint of warm water, and simmering for 2 minutes. Vermicelli, macaroni, or other Italian pastes, may be added.

THE LAUREL or BAY.—The leaves of this tree frequently enter into the recipes of cookery; but they ought not to be used without the greatest caution, and not at all unless the cook is perfectly aware of their effects. It ought to be known, that there are two kinds of bay-trees,—the Classic laurel, whose leaves are comparatively harmless, and the Cherry-laurel, which is the one whose leaves are employed in cookery. They have a kernel-like flavour, and are used in blanc-mange, puddings, custards &c.; but when acted upon by water, they develop prussic acid, and, therefore, but a small number of the leaves should be used at a time.”

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