Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Making soup is well worth your time and energy

Posted on Jan. 7, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.

Mary Ann Lienhart-Cross

Food & Nutrition

Since November and December were so mild, this real cold spell feels really cold like winter is supposed to be. Real cold winter temperatures mean real cooking. Winter is all about spending time in the kitchen preparing all kinds of great tasting comfort food. It may mean we use the stove/cook top, oven, slow cooker and other appliances more. There is just something about the aroma of foods that are roasted, baked and simmered in the oven, when you come in from the cold crisp winter.

The Crock Pot and similar small appliances are great for preparing economical, tasty recipes. For many of you, the cold weather holiday planned-over foods work perfectly into making casseroles and my favorite food, soup.

When the temperature is brisk, soup is wonderful to the body; it just warms you to the bone.

Good old-fashioned soup making is a skill or an art that is not practiced in many kitchens today because it takes time. I realize that many factors figure into not making soup like grandmother used to. There is the time to make it, having or purchasing the raw ingredients like grandmother did, and lots of prepared soups are readily available in the grocery store.

Quantity is also a factor as it is easier to make a large kettle or Dutch oven of soup than a small saucepan. Please don’t let quantity be your excuse. Just go ahead and make the large pot and invite company over or share some with your neighbors or friends.

When researchers have studied the effects of foods, soup was found to be inherently calming and even consoling. Soup even feels good when the weather gets cold. Quite often it restores our spirits and invigorates us. Just think about a piping bowl of hearty beef vegetable soup, bean and ham soup, or how about some thick, savory chili?

Soup is one of those foods you can be creative with or follow a recipe. All of the basic cookbooks have good traditional recipes. With holiday cooking you often have a turkey carcass for stock making. Another great way to start a soup is with some beef that you could brown in a cast iron skillet and then slow cook for tenderness. Another great way is to use a chicken, again brown so you create more flavor and then slow cook. When the cooking is complete, remove the meat from the bones, if you are working with poultry you might want to strain to remove the bones, let it cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate. Once the stock is chilled you can remove any of the fat that congeals on the surface. I suggest you remove most of the fat but not all, fat is flavor and if you remove it all the soup might be a lacking flavor.

Safely storing the soup can sometimes be a problem because of limited refrigerator space, especially during the holidays. One fast way to cool it off when the temperature outside is 40 degrees or lower is to put the covered pot in your unheated garage or outside. Make sure to have the lid ajar or just off a bit so the heat can escape quickly.

So now that you have a great pot of soup it is time to share. How about having company, you have the soup, someone brings bread, another guest the salad and yes we have to have someone bring dessert.

If you are not sharing your soup once it has cooled, package it in smaller containers and refrigerate or freeze it. If you have extra large quantities of soup to cool, I suggest you put portions in shallow pans to cool quickly. Never put a large pot of soup in the refrigerator with the lid on tight and expect it to cool off. Much of the heat can’t escape and, depending on the ingredients, the soup will sour and not be safe to eat.

Please, make the time to make some soup and enjoy it.

Mary Ann Lienhart-Cross is an Extension educator in consumer family science. Write to her at 17746 E. C.R. 34, Goshen, IN 46528; call 533-0554; fax 533-0254; or email lienhart@purdue.edu.