Vegetable Soup: the art of homemade soup

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I didn’t know it as a child but I know it now: soupmaking is an art. That fairy tale about stone soup expresses how the very finest soups are made. Everyone contributes the best of their tasty offerings and the end result is an incredible, delicious soup–after the stone has been removed from the pot.

I owe any soupmaking know-how to my mother. She is an AMAZING soup artist. She also knows the truth that there really is no recipe for soup. You just MAKE it. So for as long as I can remember, I’ve just been making soup. It’s never the same and can’t ever be exactly duplicated.

Basic Soupmaking

So, to start with, the skeleton of soup looks like this:

  • Meat (often leftovers, but can be meat specifically purchased for the soup.)
  • Vegetables (which vegetables will depend on which soup you’re making.)
  • Carbs (this category would include beans, rice, potatoes or noodles.) Carbs aren’t strictly necessary. It certainly is possible to make a lovely chicken soup that just has chicken and carrots and celergy. For me, carbs are important because, as always, I’m feeding hungry boys.

Over the next several weeks, I’ll be describing several different kinds of soup. Today’s soup was made with some leftover pork loin that had been in the freezer long enough that I was wondering about freezer burn.

I started out today with three large lumps of grilled pork lion. I pulled them out of the freezer at about 3:15 this afternoon. Because they were frozen solid, I put them in the stock pot and added half a bag of navy beans and filled up the pot and turned it on high. After things had boiled for about a half an hour, I took the pot off the stove, fished out the meat and drained the water off the beans. (I read somewhere that if you boil beans and drain that water off and then continue to cook them, they will not make people as gassy. Not sure if that’s true, but that’s what I did.)

So I refilled the pan with the beans and more water and put it back on the stove. I cut the meat into cubes and put that back into the pot. Sadly, the cutting board slipped after I cut up the third chunk, so about a third of the meat when on the floor. I THOUGHT about just scooping it up and throwing it into the pot, but I was pretty sure I couldn’t come here and admit that!

I boiled the beans pretty hard. After about an hour, I added a can of tomato sauce. About an hour before I wanted to eat, I put in a 2 pound bag of frozen mixed vegetables. By this time, the navy beans were getting soft and were nearly ready. There are times and soups that I use fresh veggies in, but today I didn’t want to take the time to cut things up, so frozen veggies did just fine.

About 20 minutes before I wanted to eat, I put in another can of tomato sauce, a can of diced tomatoes, and about a teaspoon each of dried oregano, basil, and celery seed. I did NOT salt the soup. I opted to let my family salt their own soup. I’ve found that I can add an enormous amount of salt to soup and people still feel like it doesn’t taste salty enough. If everyone adds their own, they usually end up with less salty soup, but it tastes just the way they like it.

In the last few minutes before I served the soup, I got the bread ready. I used leftover beet bread. I sliced the bread horizontally into two large halves, top and bottom. In a bowl, I mixed together about 2 T. bacon ranch salad dressing, 1 T. soft butter, 4 T. mayonnaise, 1 ounce grated fresh Parmesan cheese, and 4 ounces of grated smoked gouda cheese. I mashed it all together and spread the mixture over both halves. I baked it in the oven at 425° for about ten minutes until the cheese mixture was melted. Then I sliced it into wedges and started ladling up soup.

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A few notes about freezing soup: I generally try to make enough soup to freeze for quick meals later. Noodles don’t freeze very well. Potatoes freeze VERY badly. Rice is so-so. Beans freeze GREAT! Labelling containers has become quite important around our house because it’s easy to wind up with dozens of unidentified containers of SOMETHING in the freezer.

The beautiful thing about homemade soup is that you can usually use what you have in your freezer, fridge, or pantry. It’s a budget meal, but doesn’t have to feel like you’re eating on the cheap. Thanks, Mom!!!!

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BK

8 thoughts on “Vegetable Soup: the art of homemade soup

  1. My grandmother always said the secret to tasty veggie soup was to have 10 veggies and it would always taste good (even if you didn’t have meat, noodles, etc). That rule of thumb has served me well over the years! Sometimes those ‘clean out the fridge’ soups can make quite yummy meals 😉

  2. I own a store in Park Ridge, IL. we make lots of soup
    homade, the problem i am running into is we can not keep
    enough in stock..Im writing to see if there is a process
    i can implament so i can freze after making the product.
    the store name in “Morningfields” please call me if you
    can at ***/***-****

    thank you
    Rich montplaisir

  3. Dear Barb and Laura,
    When Uncle Gene was still working at the firehouse, the leftovers were labeled with their shift name and frozen each day. After a couple of weeks, it all went into the pot and that was lunch that day. Gene always said those were the best soups and of course they couldn’t be duplicated.
    Aunt Joan

  4. I have a 5-month old and work full time, so I need easy prep meals. We’ve been getting a biweekly delivery of local organic fruits and veggies for a while, and sadly, some of it was going to waste because I didn’t have time to cook a bunch of separate side dishes.

    Veggy soup to the rescue! I combine a 48 oz container of V8, a can of beef broth, some garlic sauteed in butter and a whole bunch of veggies depending on what was delivered. Staples are onions, celery, carrots, potatoes and cabbage. Last time I added white corn on the cob, leeks and bok choy. It may not be fancy, but with some wheat toast, it provided several yummy healthy meals for me. And it never gets tired due to the varied ingredients.

  5. My Mom made the best soup. She was frugal. With five children and numerous visitors to feed, she had to be smart as well. She saved leftover bits from daily meals. Into a container in the freezer they went …that small amount of leftover corn, peas and carrots, butter beans, okra and tomatoes, rice, noodles and beans…when full, it was soup night. Last night’s leftover meat was added along with homemade stock and some fresh veggies to round out the flavor. She called it Stone Soup after the children’s story. My brother always called it GARBAGE SOUP! He said “Mom! This is what most people put in the garbage! An your feeding it to us!” It is a great memory and when my brother comes to visit, I always made him Garbage Soup!

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