[Sagol: beef bones, beef bone marrow, Guk: soup]
Sagol (사골, beef bones) broth is one of the most versatile soups. You can use this broth in countless number of Korean dishes such as kimchi-jjigae, duenjang-jjigae, ttuckmandu-guk, and janchiguksoo to name a few. Moreover, if you cook sagol-guk with satae (사태, beef shank) and somyun (소면, thin Korean noodles), you get sullung-tang (설렁탕). You can buy a bag of beef bones at Korean groceries for only few bucks. I have also found them at the freezer section of Whole Foods. You can probably ask your local butcher as well.
Last time I went to the Korean butcher* in Flushing, NY, they gave me a free bag of sagol, which I cooked a few days ago. Sagol-guk is definitely not a quick and easy soup to make. Although it does take a long time to make, all you have to do is brew the bones for a long time, a “slow food.” Honestly, the first time I made sagol-guk several years ago, I vowed never to do it again. Boiling the bones on the stovetop for 2-3 days during the summer was simply frustrating and made our New York City apartment small like a sullung-tang restaurant for few days. However, I want to show you how I was able to make a painless sagol-guk a few days ago with a slow cooker. You can go about your regular routine without ever having to worry about fire or gas with a slow cooker and even better, my apartment did not smell.
[If you don’t have a slow cooker, follow the directions below except that you will simmer the sagol on medium-low heat on the stove top in a large pot. Cook the broth for about 7-8 hours each time.]
*Hankook Meat (한국정육): At this Korean butcher in Flushing, you can find most varieties of Korean beef and pork cuts and the quality is fabulous. 718-762-6245
- 1 kg of beef bones and/or beef marrow
- Soak the sagol (사골, beef bones) in cold water for at least 3 hours to draw out the blood.
- Rinse the bones and place them in a large heavy pot filled with water. Bring it to a rapid boil and cook for about 5-10 minutes. Throw out this water. This draws out the remaining blood, cuts the fat and removes any unpleasant odors.
- Rinse the bones once more and boil them in water again. Carefully move the bones and boiling soup into a slow cooker. I placed the bones in the slow cooker first then poured the broth to prevent any splashes from the boiling water.
- Cook it on the “high” setting for 12 hours. I cooked it overnight.
- Move the first batch of broth back to a large pot and cool. Leave the bones in the slow cooker. Once the broth becomes room temperature, place the pot into a refrigerator or outside if it is cold out.
- Boil another pot full of water and pour it into the slow cooker. Using hot water is key to making good sagol-guk in a slow cooker. This time, cook the bones for 24 hour on “high” setting.
- Fat from the first batch of the broth solidifies on the top when cooled. Remove the fat.
- Combine the first and second batch together when the second batch is done. Boil the broth on high heat with the lid off for about an hour or two. This condenses the broth to about 2/3 – 1/2 in volume.
- Cool the broth once more in the refrigerator. Skim off the fat. You will be left with a thick milky broth that has a jello-like texture. This color and texture is a result of the bone marrow in the bones and is a sign of a great sagol-guk.
- You can heat is and serve it as soup or use it as a broth in other dishes. I make a large batch and store sagol-guk in the freezer for future use.