Making Soup


As usual, yesterday I spent the day cooking, baking and cleaning. Also, as usual, I got farther on the cooking. (No one could possibly tell how much I detest cleaning, right?) The house smells wonderful though, mostly from bread and soup.

I was reading an article yesterday and it was mentioned that soup is one of the oldest cooked foods. We don’t pay soup much respect, drying it out and putting it into little cups or packets and then reconstituting it with hot water for a meal that we don’t even taste, or stuffing it into cans where it sits on the shelf for years and when you finally open it and put it on the table you get the response, “Aw! Soup again?”

Soup is an all-day food. By that I mean that it takes you all day to cook it if you’re doing it right and it’s awfully easy to make from scratch. Besides, it makes the house smell soooooooooooooo good! You don’t need recipes to make good soup. In fact, when I use a recipe it usually turns out rather bland until I fiddle with it.

Basic Method

Take a pot full of water and get it hot. Put in some kind of protein, (meat, fish or beans) and let cook slowly, an hour or so. When the meat is done, pull it out and let it cool (beans need more cooking, so leave ‘em in), while you dump in a lot of peeled and chopped vegetables that are “hard”, like carrots, celery, turnips and so on. (Try for 1” or smaller pieces…) Let them simmer for another hour or 6, then add the “soft” peeled and chopped vegetables, like spinach leaves or cabbage, onions, potatoes, tomatoes and the cooled meat (that you’ve chopped up by now) and let cook for another hour or two. If the broth is too thick, add some water. If the broth is too thin, add some rice, or during that last hour of cooking, some noodles. You probably don’t need much seasoning, if any, only a little salt if you want it, maybe some pepper, dill or rosemary,( if you’re using chicken), caraway seed or horseradish if you’ve got beef. If you add too much salt, throw in several chopped up potatoes. (I usually don’t add any salt, just put a shaker on the table).

Yes, for those of you who are vegan or tend that way, I’m a carnivore. I like the taste of meat, so I do put it in my soups. You can make soups without, really good ones, but since I’m not so good at those I didn’t put those directions in this article, but there are a few good recipes in this collection for you to try.

Soup doesn’t take much tending, which is why it’s been around for such a long while. If you have sufficient water in the pot, you only have to stir it every ½ hour or so and on a low enough heat (the setting that you can get cooking in a fireplace, but not on an electric stove!) it can sit and stay warm and good with no tending for a whole work day, which is probably why our ancestors developed such a flexible type of cookery.

Scraped Icebox Soup

Soup doesn’t need all that much care or measuring of ingredients. Many folks have had what I call “scraped icebox” soup at my place. I go through the fridge as the water is heating right at the start and look for leftovers that ought to get used up…and I have put some *really* strange things in.

You can add almost anything if you chop it fine enough: leftover sandwiches, salad greens that are getting tired and rusty, sauces that there’s not enough for a serving, “doggie bag” contents, the last hotdog that someone forgot, a twice-baked potato that’s been re-heated one too many times, the last egg from the carton, serving of mac and cheese that you just can’t face for one more day, shrimp that needs to be used up, the last bits from a can of tuna, black olives (you can get away with green sometimes, but I don’t like ‘em in this). I’ve even added the “swishings” (fill the jar ½-way with water and shake) from baby food, catsup, mustard and other sauces.

Yes, you can add milk and cheese products, although you may find that if the quantity is large you’ll have to watch for it sticking to the bottom of the pot and scorching. Once all this has simmered a while, I go on as above. It just adds depth to the flavor. I try to not let the “icebox scrapings” be more than ½ ingredients in the soup, though.

           Talking about strange ingredients… the oddest I’ve ever had went into a pot of soup that I was making over an open fire at an historical re-creation event (SCA, for those of you who know of it) We were camped under an oak tree and I was stirring the soup so the lid was off. Just as turning my head to look at something that a camp mate was doing, I realized that several leaves from the oak tree had dropped into the pot! I had stirred enough that they were already down in the broth and while I fished out a couple, we found out later that I had missed at least one. The king got it and the look on his face was priceless! The soup won the culinary prize for the event, although I don’t necessarily recommend oak leaves as seasoning!

The Essential Soup Starter Box

I usually have a box in my kitchen freezer that I call “soup starter”. (emphasis on “freezer”!!!) When I bake meat in the oven, or fry it up on the stove, after I take the meat out of the pan I run water in and let it stand for a couple of minutes, then scrape the pan with a soft spatula to get the bits and drippings to come loose. I pour that off into the box. It takes the drippings with it and any flavorings from the meat, (like mushrooms, onions or spices) that would normally get thrown out. If you collect enough of this stuff you don’t even have to use any meat in your broth, there’s plenty of flavor without.

It also gives you a chance to de-grease the stuff, because the fat will rise to the top. If you have multiple layers, though, it helps to warm it up enough to melt the fat and add some water (maybe the night before you make your soup?), then put it in the fridge to let the good stuff drop to the bottom and the fat (which with the American way of eating we *don’t* need!) harden on top. Our ancestors did that without the refrigerator, because once the broth gets cold, the hardened fat will keep out air and the broth will stay good a while.

Birds love the fat in the winter, btw. You can just put it out in a bowl, or mix it with birdseed and you’ll make a lot of the feathered ones *really* happy with you! …and our ancestors made candles and lights of this grease, as well as using it for cooking… And then nothing goes down the drain or into the trash. (…meat grease really clogs drains…)

You can also take leftovers from your serving dishes and toss them into this box. If the box is full, it’s time to make soup! This replaces the basic meat/water starter. Drop it in your soup pot, add potatoes, celery and other vegetables with a bit of rice, barley or noodles and your soup is done in an hour…or will sit in a crockpot all day, just getting better and better.

I love my soups!

Once your soup is done, put however much you can eat in 2 or 3 days in the fridge. Store the rest in freezer bags or in small servings in Gladware® or some such in the freezer. Freezing soup in one-day-amounts means that you can pull a container from the freezer after dinner one night, stick it into the fridge to thaw, and then just zap it in the microwave the next day for lunch or supper. Add good bread and a salad and you’re all set.

Page created and published 3/5/21 (C)M. Bartlett
From the Daily Stuff 3/28/2007 ©M. Bartlett
Last updated 3/5/21