Some people believe that the secret to great homemade soup involves starting with a commercial broth before stirring in some fresh vegetables. This is hardly homemade soup when you buy what is simple to make with a broth base. Naturally, you save time and the messy preparation of peeling, chopping and handling meat, poultry or sorting and then soaking beans. Making “homemade” soup like this is also more expensive than throwing some meat or bones, vegetables and beans into your stock pot. In fact, you may have ham or turkey leftover and may be thinking of making a big pot of soup. For that reason, here is the secret to great homemade soup that is delicious, economical and one that can save you money by using what you already have on hand.
What I like to do is always peel and chop a few onions and garlic to brown in a few tablespoons of olive oil first. You can use a cast iron skillet or just start in a stock pot that you plan to add your meat or bones too.
While your onions and garlic are browning, it is a good time to check your refrigerator for celery, carrots, green beans, mushrooms, zucchini or whatever other fresh vegetables that are available. If you made a stuffing for a turkey, perhaps, you may have excess celery for one that needs tending to. The leafy celery tops as well as the stems can be chopped and added to the vegetables browning next.
As those vegetables continue simmering to fill my kitchen with their delicious aroma, I am peeling and chopping my carrots, potatoes, green beans, mushrooms, and zucchini.
Dry beans are something I cook with all the time. To save time, I always make it a habit to get a large pot lid to check for any pebbles. Once finished, I save emptied peanut butter jars for storing my beans in my pantry. This way when needed, I just need to rinse them before using. Northern beans, those white beans and lima beans are excellent candidates for soups in how quickly they can cook over some other varieties. Lentils also are a speedy bean to cook, but I use the white beans or lima beans for ham and turkey soups. You can also go with dried split peas, if you prefer.
Trust me, but you need to be careful with dry beans and sort first instead of just rinsing them off to throw into a pot of soup or to cook with. I broke a molar on a tiny pebble that taught me this important lesson.
Once those onions and garlic are golden brown, I take them off of the heat and make a roux with a few tablespoons of flour to help thicken the soup. You don’t have to add the flour for a ham, beef or chicken soup. I usually reserve this step for cream soups such as corn chowder using a ham bone and leftover ham pieces, potato soup, cheese soup, etc. before adding a can of evaporated milk and water.
I usually transfer the browned vegetables from my cast iron skillet to my stock pot that is waiting with my meaty ham bone or turkey carcass before filling with ample water. Next, I throw in the rest of my waiting vegetables, any chopped leftover meat, beans, salt, pepper, and parsley. I still have some fresh sage growing in my yard so I always like to add some of it as well.
I give that pot a few hours on a medium heat to simmer. Toward the end, I throw in about one-half cup of dry elbow macaroni. Of course, you can boil noodles. I just find the dry macaroni done this way is just enough to give the soup more body without bothering with that extra step.
The best part of making soup is all the countless changes in taste that you can create just by altering your herbs, seasonings, vegetables, beans, and meat choices, which is the real secret to great homemade soup.
With the financial hardships that many people are now having, soup is an economical and an efficient meal stretcher that can nourish and get you through rough times. By eating a bowl of soup also can help you curb your appetite.