Is it possible to make a tasty soup from the water that corned beef has been boiled in?
December 4, 2010 3:24 AM   Subscribe

Is it possible to make a really tasty soup from the water that's been used to boil corned beef?

I'm currently boiling some corned beef in a very large stockpot full of water, vinegar, cloves, brown sugar and onion. I'll admit to never having made soup before. The corned beef will be taken out and used for cold meat cuts for the rest of the week (if I can stop myself from gorging on it) and in the past I've just disposed of the water it was cooked in but I'm wondering if there's a tasty soup that can be made from it. Do you know of a way to do this?
posted by h00py to Food & Drink (22 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Oh, I added some mustard powder this time also.
posted by h00py at 3:26 AM on December 4, 2010

It should work in any recipe that calls for beef stock. Taste it, and if it isn't strong enough boil it down or add more bought beef stock.
posted by fire&wings at 3:36 AM on December 4, 2010

I'd be worried it was too salty and concentrating just makes that worse. Taste it - there is no other useful test!
posted by Fiery Jack at 3:39 AM on December 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

I agree that it will probably be too salty. Taste it and see, but don't expect a lot.
posted by plinth at 3:58 AM on December 4, 2010

I suspect it will also be too greasy for a good soup. I'd recommend making some gravy out of some of the stock instead.
posted by Ranindaripley at 4:05 AM on December 4, 2010

Response by poster: I've just tasted it (it's got about another hour to go) and it's not particularly salty. I've never made soup in my life before, apart from instant stuff, so should I just be looking for soup recipes that have a beef stock base? Can you recommend what could be added to this water (there's a lot of it) after I've reduced it to make a stunning beef stock based soup? I am an absolute beginner when it comes to soup so feel free to recommend something obvious!
posted by h00py at 4:08 AM on December 4, 2010

Greasy, salty stock is not a problem - it's stock after all. Most soup recipes will call for water, tomatoes, etc - other liquids and ingredients which will offset the strong taste of the stock. If it's excessively greasy then skim it off. Here are some beginner friendly recipes which call for beef stock, here are soups. You're experimenting, but keep tasting and you'll be fine.
posted by fire&wings at 4:19 AM on December 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

after I've reduced it to make a stunning beef stock

Keep in mind that reducing it will concentrate the salt, so it may become too salty even if it doesn't start that way.

Don't be intimidated of soup-making. Soup is just flavorful liquid with stuff in it. Look in your fridge for stuff that might taste good with whatever liquid you're using. Chop amounts that look about right into bite-sized pieces. Assuming it's a hot soup, and that the additional ingredients are cooked in the liquid, bring that liquid to a boil and start adding stuff. Add the stuff that cooks slowly first. Add the stuff that cooks fastest later. Adjust flavors with salt, acid (lemon, vinegar), heat (red pepper flakes), etc. Puree some or all of it if you feel like it.

Soup is a low-risk way to play with flavors. Let yourself experiment!
posted by jon1270 at 4:23 AM on December 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

I second the "don't be afraid", when I finally got brave enough to make soup, I was AMAZED at how easy it was. As a beginner you'll make soup that is better than anything you find in a can.
posted by HuronBob at 4:26 AM on December 4, 2010

Best answer: Too salty? Just add potatoes.

I make corned beef soup all the time because I make it in the crock pot and throw in carrots, potatoes, and cabbage. We eat the beef and vegetables one night and then the meat gets shredded and put back into the pot along with left over vegetables.

Another possibility is to remove the beef, boil down the stock, add a few cut-up potatoes and leeks (I like to first saute them in butter) then add either cream or sour cream before serving.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:14 AM on December 4, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Ooh, I think that sounds delicious! I spent last winter teaching myself to make soup.

For 6-8 cups of corned beef water, I would use...
2 cups each of chopped carrots, onions, and celery - saute over medium heat in a pan with 2-3 tbsp butter until their are kind of soft. I'm not big on mis en place (prepping), so usually I throw in the carrots first, then celery, then onion and cook until the onions look done. So I cut the carrots while the butter melts, cut the celery after throwing in the carrots, etc.

Add to corned beef water, simmer on medium low for a bit. Add in cut potatoes and cabbage, and you have a veggie irish dinner soup!
posted by frecklefaerie at 6:15 AM on December 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Making soup is a little like making salad: you can basically add anything you want at about any proportion you want. My wife's family makes beef vegetable soup a lot. Brown some stew meat in a separate skillet, add to pot, along with carrots, onion, celery, frozen corn and green beans (peas would work here to; again, it's all up to you). A touch of tomato juice can brighten up the flavor very well. If you want it heartier, you might consider adding some barley.
posted by Gilbert at 6:47 AM on December 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I have recently been learning to make soups, too. Sounds like a good start to me.

One thing I've learned about soup-making is that often a bit of cooking before things go in the soup will help a lot. For example, people will tell you "Oh, just throw some ____ in the soup!" but it will be better if you flash-brown it in a pan, or on a grill, so there's a little bit of that cooked flavor (though you still let the soup do the cooking, you just want to add a browned taste).

Another thing that really helps with soups are good herbs. I like rosemary and sage in small amounts. Lemon is great in chicken-y soups and vegetable-y soups, if things are bland seeming. With beef stock like yours, I prefer to use tomatoes to get the acidity and deliciousness up.
posted by fake at 7:14 AM on December 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

The cabbagy/corned beefy stock sounds perfect for a green lentil soup/stew.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:18 AM on December 4, 2010

As long as it doesn't taste too salty, it should be fine. I have tried this before and ended up with a too-salty soup, so just rely on tasting along the way to make sure it's OK. If you further reduce it, it will concentrate the flavours but also taste more salty. I would add either some lentils, onion, carrot and celery, or I'd try doing a puréed split pea soup, cooking the split peas in the broth with some onion and carrot and then puréeing with a blender or handheld mixer. A broth from corned beef will not be as rich as one made with beef bones, so it will probably not work as well for a soup recipe that needs a clear beef broth base, like French onion soup or minestrone.
posted by amusebuche at 7:42 AM on December 4, 2010

I would suggest a couple things before using the stock for soup. Be sure you put the liquid through a strainer to get rid of all the big bits of inedible herbs, weird congealed meat thingies, etc. Second, store the broth overnight in the refrigerator then skim off the congealed fat from the top the next morning. This will reduce the amount of fat in the broth. I think this stock sounds excellent for lentil soup. I may have to try that this week. Hmmm, I wonder if corned beef is on sale.
posted by eleslie at 7:45 AM on December 4, 2010

Best answer: Yes, what have you got in your fridge and pantry? Personally, based on my fridge and pantry, I'd throw in onions, garlic, carrots, celery, and potatoes, all chopped, in whatever portions make me happy, and let it simmer. I might add a (non-potato) starch later on (rice, small pasta) and boil/simmer as usually needed for that. Throw in some herbs, add some pepper. I never manage to add enough salt.

Leftover beef, ham, or chicken; hot pepper flakes; crunchy things to float at the end (those Chinese noodle things, tortilla chips, croutons ...); cheese on top ... you can really add ANYTHING. Just think of some flavors you like to eat with beef and start there.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:41 AM on December 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

Just a warning that if you corn your own beef, it will be unbearably salty. Another thing you could do is cook pasta in the liquid or toss some couscous in after bringing it to a boil, then cover and let sit.
posted by QIbHom at 3:24 PM on December 4, 2010

Best answer: Use it to cook potatoes and carrots. Make hash browns with the potatoes if you want an extra treat. The carrots will be delish. I make New England Boiled Dinner,(w/out turnips) and always add extra potatoes for making hash browns.
posted by theora55 at 4:52 PM on December 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

Dried pea soup made with this water would probably be really good. To make your soup creamy, process it through a blender and/or push it through a sieve.
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:00 AM on December 5, 2010

Too salty? Just add potatoes.

Secret Life of Gravy has spoken the truth, but only in the sense of "add things you want in your soup that don't already contain salt."

There's a cooking myth out there that potatoes will somehow extract excess salt from food. Some references will even suggest throwing the potatoes away, afterwards. This has repeatedly been shown to be complete bunkum: potatoes are no better than carrots, cubed beef, or zucchini at removing salt from their surroundings.
posted by IAmBroom at 6:24 PM on December 5, 2010

Best answer: I don't know whether potatoes work better than other things, but they certainly do work well. Also, they don't have much flavor of their own - unlike carrots or cubed beef. They're quite yummy when you take them out, too. For a real treat, half-cook them in the broth and then roast them with a bit of olive oil and coarse salt.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:13 PM on December 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

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