Friday, January 29, 2010

Soup Toujours

Fun was channel surfing one night and clicked on a program showing families managing on a budget for the first time ever. One family apparently spent 90% of their monthly allowance in the first week. The cook was asked how she was going to feed them the rest of the month with I think around $160.00. Soup. If they made soup, that 160.00 could stretch for longer than the month.

GG came in last evening with two boxes full of pork loin all purchased for around 5.00 each. One loin cubed for soup would be sufficient for three pots of very meaty soup. If meat is not desired, lentils and beans make good and cheaper alternatives. A cup or too is all that is needed.

A pot of soup can last a week. Five pounds of carrots are around two to three dollars. Ten pounds of potatoes are a tad more. Onions are very cheap - garlic too. All I use for some soups is one onion, a carrot and a few more potatoes, a cup of tomatoes, some salt and pepper. Now I don't keep the wolves here fed with just soup. I'm simply pointing out that if in a squeeze, soup is the way to go. Use whatever is in season, in the grocery aisle on sale or in the freezer or on your pantry shelf. Use up your leftovers or whatever is in the fridge. Beef, chicken, pork, fish, potato, tomato any cooked vegetable - a bit of leftover vegetable, grains on hand. Based on all that decide, "Is this going to be a red, white or cream soup?" This will finally determine which direction the soup takes.
When I say red based soup, I'm thinking about dark reddish and brown coloured soups. They contain usually beef or lentils, barley, tomato, red or dark beans.Start off chopping onions and garlic and sauteing that together in butter or chicken fat for a cream or white based soup - beef fat for a red based or mushroom soup. Yes. I skim off and freeze all chicken and beef fat when cooking those two meats for just this purpose. When I say, a white based soup, think chicken, fish, pork or cream soup or chowder. For these soups I soften the onions and garlic to only a golden colour. For red based soups saute the onion base to a deeper tone.
For a cream soup mentally divide the liquid portion into half. The first half will be about four cups and will cover the vegetables to cook until soft. Use water, broth, stock, leftover gravy or tinned gravy. Add some bouillon to up the flavour if you use water.

The second half is the dairy portion, about another four cups and usually milk which has been thickened into a white sauce or cheese sauce or cornstarch.
With non-cream soups saute the onion base to the appropriate colour. Saute the meat if you are using fresh, add the vegetables and then keep adding liquid - broth, gravy, water - to cover. Sometimes I add mostly puree tomatoes for the liquid portion. Sometimes the tomatoes are nicer added diced, chunked or whole. Generally I keep whole tomatoes for stew. It's up to the cook.
Sauteing can be skipped but the flavour is always deeper when doing this. And here is something we have noticed in this family. Crock pot soup never tastes the same as soup made in a pot over the stove. Anybody else notice this? I've even sauted all the onion first in a regular pot and transferred it over to the crock and still. Blah. What am I doing wrong?A tablespoon of salt is sufficient for one pot of soup. My pot is five inches tall and ten inches in diameter. Now that Speedy is away at school and Violinist married, I've gone back to this pot - a heavy bottomed stainless steel pot - from using a bigger stock pot.

Add some pepper. Black for red soups. White for white soups, unless you want to see the black little specks. I'll admit I'm a bit dull with spices. A bay leaf in the red soups. Some hot chili for a chowder. Turmeric and paprika add colour and heat. Dill is nice in a chicken broth with noodles. A tablespoon of brown sugar helps mellow out a red soup.

Read the soup labels in the grocery aisle. You can easily duplicate the same thing at home for a fraction of the price.If there is beef in the fridge, I will be thinking to add tomatoes put away in the freezer and also half a cup of barley. Barley will slightly thicken the broth.
If there is pork in the fridge, I'll think about soaking some sort of bean overnight or add some canned beans toward the end of the cooking time instead - and maybe some slices of cabbage or cooked rice. Amounts can easily be adjusted up or down depending on your size of family. I've had to adjust amounts downward this year which has meant peeling or scrubbing one less potato or carrot and switching to the smaller size pot. Add a handful of frozen vegetables, leftover cooked rice or cooked diced potato and top up with tomato or V-8 juice. The soup will then stretch should someone unexpected show up. Sauteed spinach with onion, leftovers from pizza making, made it into this vegetable beef soup. For some reason the wolves have never liked scalloped potatoes but I do. So the day after I indulge in scalloped potatoes, the wolves indulge in a cream of something or other with potato soup. Apparently, they have never figured this out. If no scalloped potatoes are available then for a white or cream soup I'll peel some but not always. Peeling is again up to your discretion.
The cubes here are refrigerated leftover beef broth. The hardened fat which had formed on top of the broth was pried off. Some was used for sauteing the onion and garlic starter for this soup and the remainder frozen for future use.
When I was single, I made soup and bought plane tickets with the savings. During the Great Depression, Geek Guy's Dad lived on the Canadian prairies with nine siblings and his widowed mother. She fed them soup. And the time she went to visit a cousin for a week - the kids finished the soup she left them but then went hungry after cooking up the remaining food in entrees rather than soup.
A pot of soup is easy and economical in time, money and ingredients. So what will I be doing with all that pork GG brought home last night? Some has already found it's way into an oven stew. Some will be shish-kabob or minced and baked into Chinese Pork Buns. There will be chops, pita pockets, salad toppings, sandwiches and stir fry.
And soup - always.


Mental P Mama said...

Wonderful! I love all soups. I would love to come have a mug of yours!!!


You can't beat soup - I live off the stuff! Sticks to Ya' Bones as my Granmother would say!

Vicky x

Leila said...

This is how I do it too! To me, soup is more appealing than any other "thrifty" food (other than maybe meat pie). If someone wanted beans and rice, I'd think...why not make it into soup? Somehow I digest it better that way.
Soup is so nourishing, warming, and homey. And yours look wonderful!

Gill - That British Woman said...

I need to put on a pot of soup now!! That looks yummy.


Niki said...

This is an excellent post...and is the way I make soup :-) Nothing like a pot of delicious sop to stretch those food dollars!

Sue said...

What a perfect post for me to read on a gray, dreary Monday morning. I know what we are having for lunch today!

Glory von Hathor said...

Sudden urge to make soup has taken me over.

Rachel said...

Perusing your blog for the first time...and then off to make soup. Yum.

And I second the Crockpot sentiment. I haven't found anything (save cooking applesauce/butter, ground beef for large batches) that I like better in the Crockpot. What's wrong with me?

Anonymous said...

Do you have any recommendations for the best pots to make soup in - beginner cook here.