CRAVE: Homemade stock is the secret to the best soups
Fresh produce is the secret to flavorful homemade soups. Whether it’s a light, brothy soup or a thick, creamy one, once you’ve tasted the rich results of your labors, there’s no going back to soup in a can.
With a good stock ready to go, some basic kitchen staples, and fresh produce, you can put a delicious soup on the table in about half an hour. Homemade soups also cost less than store-bought soups, especially if you have your own garden, or you stock up when you find end-of-season deals at your local farmers market.
Soup stock is the often unnoticed foundation that makes a soup full-bodied rather than bland and watery. It’s a flavorful liquid in which vegetables, meat, and/or fish are cooked slowly, in order to extract their full essence. Making soup stock is a perfect companion to gardening. Simply toss less-than-perfect culls (with trimmings, leaves, and peels), too-small-to-peel garlic cloves and potatoes, and a few herbs and seasonings into a pot of water. (Starting with cold or room temperature water helps the foods exude even more flavor.) Then let it simmer while you go about your day.
You can keep stock frozen and ready to use. If you have room in the freezer, you can also store veggie trimmings that would have ended up in the disposal or compost pile, until there’s enough to make great stock.
Soup stock can be based on vegetables, fowl, beef, fish, or even miso. Experiment with different ingredients to suit your tastes, and use what’s in season and on hand. There’s no need to peel the vegetables, as the skins add nutrients and flavor. With chicken, skin is optional–it provides more flavor, but also more fat. Simmered bones add calcium and other nutrients, but you can leave them out if you prefer.
After letting the mixture simmer for a couple of hours, strain and discard the solids, then allow the stock to cool. Don’t let it sit around any longer than the time it takes to reach room temperature. If you don’t intend to make soup immediately, freeze or refrigerate the stock for later use.
Soup stocks can be enriched or thickened with wine, cream, puréed veggies, miso, or starches like wheat or oat flour. If you’re inventing a soup with whatever is on hand, a great way to start is by lightly browning diced onions, celery, carrots, garlic, and herbs in just enough oil or butter to coat the bottom of the pot, and then deglazing the pan with stock.
Once the pan is deglazed, add half your stock, along with the ingredients that will take the longest time to cook. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the veggies are almost done. Add enough stock to create the desired volume. Return to a boil, and add the remaining ingredients. Remove from heat. Season, and allow the soup to sit for a few hours before serving, to let the flavors meld.
To freeze soup, allow about an inch of space in the container for expansion. To can soup, pressure-can according to recommendations for the least acidic ingredients, typically 30 to 50 minutes at 10 pounds pressure.
Basic Vegetable Stock
Yields about 7 cups.
8 cups water
2 large onions, unpeeled, quartered
1 large carrot, scrubbed, quartered
2 cups unpeeled, quartered potatoes
1 head garlic, unpeeled
3 ribs celery, with tops
4 sprigs parsley
2 teaspoons salt or tamari soy sauce
Fresh or dried herbs (such as basil, oregano, sage, rosemary, and bay leaves)
1⁄2 cup nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon white miso
1. In a large stockpot, combine water, onions, carrot, potatoes, garlic, celery, parsley, salt, and herbs.
2. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for two hours.
3. Remove from heat, and let stock cool. Strain into a bowl, and throw the solids on the compost heap.
4. Whisk nutritional yeast and miso into strained broth until blended.
5. Use the stock immediately, or refrigerate or freeze until needed.
NOTE: Nutritional yeast is available in health food stores, online, and in some grocery stores. Miso contains live enzymes, so never boil it. For a bolder flavor, use brown or red miso instead of white.
Tomato Tortilla Soup
Yields 5 servings.
1 1⁄2 cups chopped onion
5 large cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 to 2 chiles, minced
1 medium sweet pepper, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin seeds
1⁄2 teaspoon fresh or dried oregano
4 cups chopped fresh tomatoes
3 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
1⁄3 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
Sea salt and black pepper, to taste
Grated Monterey Jack cheese
Crumbled tortilla chips
Chopped fresh cilantro or parsley
1. In a large stockpot, sauté onion and garlic in oil until translucent. Add chiles, sweet pepper, cumin, and oregano, and sauté for about 10 minutes.
2. Add tomatoes, and cook over medium heat until they release their juices. Add stock and corn, and simmer for 15 minutes. Add lime juice, and season with salt and pepper.
3. Top individual servings with cheese, chips, and cilantro.
Bleu Cheesy Broccoli Potato Soup
Yields 6 servings.
1 large onion, diced
1 leek, cut into thin rings
3 large cloves garlic, minced
5 tablespoons butter or olive oil
2 to 3 medium potatoes, grated
1 carrot, grated
1 green pepper, seeded and diced
1 large head broccoli, chopped
4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
5 ounces bleu cheese, crumbled
1 cup half-and-half
1 cup milk
1⁄3 cup apple cider
Sea salt and black pepper, to taste
Minced fresh parsley
1. In a large stockpot, sauté onion, leek, and garlic in butter until soft, about five minutes. Add potatoes, carrot, green pepper, and broccoli, and sauté for an additional two to three minutes.
2. Add stock, and simmer until all ingredients are soft.
3. Purée soup in a food processor or blender. Pour into a large saucepan, and place over medium heat. Stir in bleu cheese, half-and-half, and milk. Simmer for two minutes, then add apple cider. Season with salt and pepper, and garnish with parsley.