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Saturday, December 1, 2012

Saturday Soup…

heatBeautiful soup, so rich and green,

Waiting in a hot tureen!

Who for such dainties would not stoop?

Soup of the evening, beautiful Soup!

Soup of the evening, beautiful Soup!

Beau---ootiful Soo---oop!

Beau---ootiful Soo---oop!

Soo-oop of the e—e—vening,

Beautiful, beauti—FUL SOUP!


Beautiful Soup! Who cares for fish,

Game, or any other dish?

Who not give all for two p

ennyworth only of beautiful Soup?

Pennyworth only of beautiful Soup?

Beau---ootiful Soo---oop!

Beau---ootiful Soo---oop!

Soo---oop of the e—e—vening,

Beautiful, beauti-FUL SOUP!

Lewis Carroll

Alice in Wonderland

Thanksgiving ‘12 is behind us; we’ve been singed by Black Friday; the winter solstice less than a month away. Out on the highway cars packing trees zip by. Today I saw the first silly grill wreath of the season smiling away on a Suburban. Soup season is upon us.

Back in the early ‘80s we decided our home was a bit confined; our growing family needed room to stretch, some additional space to roam indoors, so we added a room that increased the homestead square footage by about a fourth. In that room we installed a brick hearth and a woodstove…one of the best decisions we ever made. Thanksgiving several years ago a nasty fall storm ( you may remember that one) cut our power. We had a houseful of guests that holiday, twenty-seven if memory serves. Two o’clock that afternoon the lights—and the oven—went out. The woodstove saved our bacon, or turkey, rather: boiled potatoes, squash, green vegetable—we even employed a tent of foil to direct the heat from a stove vent to the roasting pan and raised the turkey’s core temp safely beyond the salmonella threshold. When the power came on eight hours later, what company remained was turkey-sated and weaving toward the guestrooms in a trytophan trance.

Soup. I know there may be other main courses worthy of poetry, but offhand none come to mind--except soup…there’s the Mock Turtle’s poem above (“Mock Turtle soup?) and children’s author and illustrator Maurice Sendak penned “Chicken Soup with Rice (“…sipping once, sipping twice, sipping chicken soup with rice). And what better heat source to simmer soup than a woodstove? A wood powered slow cooker. And what better day to simmer it this time of year than a Saturday? ”Saturday Soup” we call it in our household.

Soup. You can make it simple; you can make it complicated; you can make it up. For my paternal grandfather soup making was a week long process; on Friday he cleaned the refrigerator of leftovers and served up “leftovers” soup. You can serve soup as a side or a main dish. There are soup cookbooks galore. Blogs on woodstove cookery feature hearty soup recipes as well. (What better word  than“hearty”to couple with “soup.”)

I guess you don’t “make” soup as much as you “build” it, and as is the case with anything you build, you need a sturdy foundation upon which to erect it. In the world of soup this base is called “stock.” Just as a weak  foundation makes for a flimsy building, a weak stock takes the “hearty”out of soup. Store bought stock, beef and chicken bouillon, are adequate if you DON’T use it sparingly. I prefer dehydrated stock that comes in cubes: you’re not left with a stack of tin cans to recycle and the cubes save your grocery bill. The Knorr brand makes hefty cubes three times larger than the standard “dice” cubes you find in the soup section of the store. stock in a boxI’ve looked for the Knorr cartons among the soups at Freddies but couldn’t find them. (I first discovered these super cubes at Cost Plus Imports, then at Safeway.) Freddie’s does carry the supers however. You’ll find them in the Hispanic section of the store. I was excited to find Knorr has a new variety: tomato bouillon with chicken flavor. (When the Saturday soup cycle rolls around to chili, I can’t wait to give these tomato cubes a try.)

As homemade anything surpasses store bought, homemade stock is likewise superior. Yesterday, the day after Thanksgiving, I addressed the wreck of the turkey that was the hallmark of the day. Plenty of good stock there for turkey vegetable, turkey noodle, turkey with rice soup.stock in the making I laid a fire and while the stove heated, I did some bone and knuckle busting and in a jiffy the soup pot was a jumble of wings, thighs ‘n drumsticks, back and breast, the entire pile afloat in a pot half full of water. Four hours later the house was filled with the aroma of  boiled turkey and the pot half full of stock. I donned my turkey apron and dealt with the messy part, separating tidbits from bone, with my eye on soup rewards further down the road.

On the subject of stock: anytime you steam vegetables, set aside the infused water for later use in any vegetable soup. One of my most successful Saturday soups, brimful of flavor and heartiness, I made a couple weeks ago: beef barley soup. The stock? Sorry if this offends the squeamish among you, but when the wife was out of town, I simmered a beef tongue (such fare must be prepared and consumed surreptitiously here) for three and a half hours. I ladled off the stock, cleverly labeled it “beef stock” (well, what’s deceitful about that?), and froze it for the appropriate spot in the Saturday soup queue. “This is wonderful!”my wife exclaimed after she sipped a spoonful of Saturday soup. That was kudos enough for me; no need to discuss the soup specs of the evening, but now I’ve outed myself. I can only say that that Saturday the batch of soup was pot licking good!

In our household we have our favorite Saturday soups, old reliable recipes we reprise Saturday after Saturday during woodstove weather. Sorry, because of limited space, The Ripple will just mention the favorites by name, (a note or two on ingredients gratis, however):

Hamburger barley soup (use those canned tomatoes from the summer’s garden), white chili, sausage soup (two recipes, one with kielbasa sausage, the other,”surprise me sausage,” smoked salmon chowder, clam chowder (don’t spare the garden sweet corn or the summer potatoes for this number), Reuben chowder (another way to use this year’s sauerkraut vintage), Shreveport gumbo (I have yet to have a successful okra crop here on the place), butternut squash soup (or any other squash…cheese pumpkin this year…or just plain pumpkin, a hefty dash of cinnamon or curry, perhaps, to bring a dance to those taste bud, potato-leek soup. Tip: with the cream soups, be sure to stir in a liberal amount of sour cream). Black bean chili con carne, of course, with homemade tomato sauce and homegrown bell pepper (shhhhh, when everyone’s back is turned, sneak in a couple cayenne peppers). The “carne?” Hamburger or sausage or stew meat or all three for the “Where’s the meat” crowd (I’ve slipped in buffalo and venison with no repercussions; those abstaining from mammalia might switch out the mammal for poultry), split pea or lentil (chop up a fat onion, a  few carrots and celery for a more robust soup), beef stew with plump dumplings dancing the rhumba atop the carrots, potatoes, onions, celery, and green pepper…for just a few…. If you want a break from chopping, just soak a pot of beans overnight, add a smoked ham hock or two along with a cube of beef stock. (Tip 2: during soup season it’s wise to have a few nice smoked ham hocks or shanks at the ready.) A big kettle of soup has staying power, too: there should always be enough left over to freeze…a good, quick fix for those cold, winter nights when you don’t want to leave the woodstove long enough to prepare a kitchen meal. We try to have a repertoire of a few favorite varieties in the freezer should we be in the mood for soup.

And what better side dish to have with soup than homemade bread?Wheat bread While your Saturday soup is bubbling away on the woodstove, why not use that gentle radiant heat to stimulate a little yeast? The woodstove mantel is the perfect place to warm the flour, proof the yeast, ready it for the dough. No bread machines, please! You knead to be interactive with the dough: mix the shortening, sugar, and warm water. Roll up your sleeves and let the flour fly! Knead and knead and knead until you set those those glutens free. With the onset of chest pains, the kneading is done. Homemade loaves

What better welcome mat could one have on a cold Saturday night than a warm home and the commingled fragrances of homemade bread and soup? For those clients wishing to sell a home, real estate agents share this tip: “Before a showing your home, get a nose up on the competition by baking a batch of cookies.” Certainly good advice for the warmer months of the year, but if you are marketing your home during the winter months, season your home, I advise, with soup. Soup of the evening…Saturday soup.white chili and more...

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  1. We just had some today too! I cooked a mature duck overnight in the crock pot; picked the meat in the morning, then rendered the bones and a few veggies all day. Sally Fallon's Nourshing Traditions book recommends adding some vinegar or other acid to the water to pull the minerals from the bones. Throw in a few sauteed veggies, some pinches of spices- SO good! I find that old birds from the farm, though way too tough for roasting, make the best broth!

    1. Ah, CF, it must be nice to have a poultry yard. Duck soup, eh? We'll have to exchange soup recipes sometime. I'm about to add one more recipe to my soup repertoire: starling soup. And there's plenty of stock out there gorging themselves on my 99 cent suet blocks. I plan on seasoning them with a scattering of lead shot. Wonder how much vinegar it would take to bring out the flavor in those greedy bones? Oh, and by the way, CF, it's December 2. Isn't it time to turn on the snow? Thanks for the comment. TMJ