Monday, March 17, 2014
Home Canned French Onion Soup
I recently found myself with a bunch of onions ready to go bad, and some very pricey meat that had gotten freezer burned. I decided to put them together before they were wasted, and add to my food storage at the same time.
First, I had to make a stock. I had purchased a whole beef filet, cut it into individual steaks, and threw them in the freezer. For some reason, one of the bags with a number of fillets was NOT vacuum sealed. I forgot about the meat, and it got freezer burn. The meat was still eatable, but not really as a nice filet.
It would become the base of the beef stock.
I had about 2 pounds of meat, cut it into nice-sized chunks, then threw it in a large stock pot to brown. When browning beef, you want to make sure you leave enough space in the pan for the juices to cook off. Otherwise, you're braising the beef instead of browning it. The browned meat adds a better flavor to the stock, IMO.
I would brown up a batch, removed it from the pot, and brown up the next. Since I wanted to make 10 pints of soup, I added 12 pints of cold water to allow for some evaporation. I then brought this to a boil, added some salt and pepper, a bay leaf then dropped the temperature to a simmer for 1 1/2 hours.
I now put my attention to the star of the show, the onions. I had just over 4 lbs. I sliced them about 1/4 inch wide, and put them into a heavy pan with some oil and medium heat.
The key is to cook them down very slowly. The natural sugars caramelize and really bring out the unique flavor of the soup. Also, I took all of the ends and some chunks of the onions, and tossed them into the stock pot to add more flavor to the stock.
After about an hour, I had a nice, deep brown colored pile of onions (they actually looked darker brown in real life - I swear!)-
By this time, the stock was done as well. I skimmed off the fats and proteins than had bubbled to the surface. I tasted the stock, and added a bit more salt and pepper -
I then took my cleaned and prepared canning jars, and added about 1/4 cup of the cooked onions to each jar. About this time, I was really wishing I had doubled the amount of onions I had cooked down!
Next, I put the funnel and a fine mesh strainer (to keep out chunks of meat and onion) over the jars and ladled in the broth.
I filled the jars to within a half inch of the rim, put on my cleaned and prepared lids and rings, and pressure canned them at 10 pounds for 75 minutes (be sure you adjust your time and pounds depending on your elevation) -
Yeah, baby! The pressure canning "fluffed up" the onions, but I still wish I had added more...
I made some homemade croutons out of some stale bread that I slathered with butter and Parmesan cheese, and threw in the oven for 15 minutes or so - just enough to add some color -
The final assembly is a pint of the soup, then the crouton, then a sharp, tangy cheese - Swiss or (as was my case) Gruyère. Pop it in the oven to melt and voila!
I must have miscounted the amount of water I added to the stock pot, as I had a good quart or so left over. No worries. I took the stock, the beef that was left over from the stock, and added a couple of diced potatoes (pretty finely diced 1/4 inch) and boiled that all together for a half hour and had a hell of a meal with the left overs of the left overs!
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