Nothing warms body and soul in January more than a simmering pot of soup. No wonder it has been dubbed National Soup Month.
Making a pot of soup involves more than haphazardly throwing a bunch of ingredients into a pot of water and hoping for the best. I carefully choose each ingredient. Texture and color matter. Taste and smell matter. Everything matters. My soup is art.
Soup begins with a quality stock—never out of a jar, can, or box; and certainly not water with bouillon cubes added. To get healthy stock, you must simmer bones, with a little apple cider vinegar added, for several hours. The vinegar extracts precious minerals from the bones. I suggest you make your stock in big batches and freeze or can for future use.
Most Americans eat soup with a chicken or beef base. I have made soup with venison and pork with great success. Whatever meat you choose, make certain you have a stock on hand that will complement the flavor. You wouldn’t want to put venison in turkey broth, for example. Start with meat from organically raised, grass-fed animals. Cut into bite-sized pieces and brown in a little butter or olive oil. Once seared on the outside, add your onions and garlic and continue until the onion turns clear. Then add your stock and vegetables.
The choice of vegetables for your soup depends on several factors: what you have on hand, what you are in the mood for, and what sounds good together. Soup is intuitive. Trust your feelings on this. But here are a few pointers to get the most health value out of your soup:
- Don’t put in more than one brassica plant (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower). It makes it too gassy.
- Don’t mix beans with brassicas. Again, too much gas.
- Add greens or cabbage just before taking the soup off the stove so they don’t turn to mush.
- Mix the colors—eat the rainbow.
- Add grains sparingly. They will swell and take over the pot.
If you are making creamed soups, like my favorite potato soup recipe below, do not boil after adding the milk. You could curdle it or risk scorching. Add the milk, heat to hot, and serve. If you want a thick base, rather than a watery soup, I used to add potato flakes. A healthier alternative is to scoop out some of the soup, blend in the blender, and return to the pot. Do this until your soup is the right consistency.
One last point—no one is perfect and mistakes with soup can happen.
- If you add too much salt, peel and quarter a potato and add to the pot. The potato will absorb some of the salt. When the potato softens, remove and taste. If it is still too salty, add another potato.
- If your tomato base is too acidic, add a whole carrot. The carrot will cut the acid. As with the potato, cook until the carrot is soft, remove and taste. If needed, add another carrot.
Now, for my favorite and famous (at least with my family)
Creamy Cheesy Potato Soup:
- 5 pounds of potatoes, peeled and diced (This will feed a large family.)
- 1-2 onions, diced
- 1-2 carrots, diced (Sometimes I use broccoli, too.)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Lots of grated cheddar cheese (If you use Extra Sharp Cheddar, less will be required to get the same flavor and therefore reduce the fat content of your soup.)
- Prepare vegetables and put into stock pot with a thick bottom. Add enough water (or ham broth is good) to just cover the vegetables. Bring to a boil and simmer until potatoes are soft.
- In batches, remove a few cups of the soup and carefully blend in blender until smooth. Return to pot. Continue doing this until soup is desired consistency. We like a few potato chunks left.
- After blending, add enough milk to give soup a creamy look and taste. Return to heat until hot.
- Once hot, add cheese and stir until melted.
- Serve immediately with a fresh loaf of homemade bread.