With all of the snow and damp, cold weather, this certainly has been soup-time. We make soup for dinner at least once a week, and sometimes more. I understand that most people’s idea of making soup is that if it doesn’t come from a can, it is just too much trouble.
So let’s cut the nonsense — homemade soup is actually very easy. However there are a couple of tricks:
You must use good stock. The base of most soups is a good stock. And good stock is so easy to make, and so inexpensive, I don’t know why people pay out the nose for canned or boxed stock that is watery and/or too salty. I know that most people don’t buy whole chickens — unless the chicken is going to be roasted. Usually people buy chicken already parted, which leaves you without the stock-making parts! Don’t be intimidated by a whole chicken! The per pound price on a whole chicken is generally less than the parts, and there is not a lot of waste if you are saving the parts you aren’t cooking immediately for stock. There are plenty of good videos on the internet that will show you how to cut up your chicken. In addition to the neck and back, we add the wing tips to the stock parts. If we roast a whole chicken, we save the carcass, as well. Another wonderful addition to chicken stock is chicken feet. If you can get them, add them to the pot (and save a raw one for your dog!).
If you have a butcher shop near by, go in and ask for bones — knuckles, etc. The butcher shop at the grocery store probably won’t have them because most grocery chains purchase the meat from distributors that send it cryo-vac packed with most of the bones already removed, but it is worth asking. One local butcher shop sells bones for .25/lb. We get our meat directly from the farmer, so we always ask for the bones.
Easy Chicken Stock
Put frozen back pieces, wing tips, etc, in a large pot with a carrot and an onion that has been spiked with 2 whole cloves. Cover with cold water. Bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer and simmer gently for 10 hours.
More Complicated Chicken Stock
Heat your oven to 425F and roast the bones for 25 minutes, THEN dump everything into a stock pot with a carrot and an onion that has been spiked with two whole cloves. Cover with cold water, bring to a boil and turn it down to a simmer, and simmer gently for about 10 hours.
Roast the bones in a 400F oven for 45 minutes. Put the roasted bones in a pot with some raw bones. Cover with water. Bring to a boil. Turn down and simmer gently for 10 – 12 hours.
OK, yes, time consuming, but well worth it. Once the stock has cooked, let it cool down overnight, strain out the solids and put the stock in containers and put it in the freezer. We make quarts, pints and cubes (from ice-cube trays). The cubes are great for when a recipe calls for 2 tablespoons of stock, r a 1/4 cup of stock — one ice cube = 2 tablespoons!
Don’t overcook your soup. Some people make the mistake of throwing a bunch of ingredients in a pot and then leaving it on the back of the stove for the day. They are disappointed because the soup has a nondescript flavor and the stuff in the soup is all mushy and baby-food gross.
True, most of the soup we make we like better the next day, but that isn’t from cooking for long periods! Read recipes and pay attention to the cooking times! As an example, when I make chicken noodle soup. I cook the stock with a carrot and an onion and a stalk of celery. When all of that gets mushy, I process it with a stick blender — it works as a natural thickener, and makes the soup taste great. 20 minutes before I am going to serve it, I bring it to a boil and add egg noodles. I lower the soup back to a simmer and simmer it until the noodles are cooked. Yes, the noodles are mushier the next day (if there are leftovers), but they don’t fall apart.
In making vegetable soup, even if the vegetables are cut to similar sizes, not all vegetables cook at the same rate, so we add the veggies in order of cooking time — potatoes first, then carrots. A while later corn, peas and green beans. And again, the veggies in the soup don’t cook all day, just for enough time for them to be done.
Here’s a really fast soup recipe: Heat up some stock and add a few dollops of your favorite lacto-fermented vegetables!
There is more snow in the forecast, here on the east coast, so rather than stocking up on bread, milk, and toilet paper, get some soup making supplies.