Soup is comfort food, but it's also a hearty and inexpensive meal that can be prepared ahead of time and frozen, or cooked conveniently in the crock pot so that you come home to a warm meal. Here are some great tips for your next pot of delicious soup.
Too Much Salt If you've accidentally become too overzealous with the salt shaker, all is not lost. Simply place a raw potato into the pan and simmer it in the soup for about 15 minutes. The potato will absorb the extra salt.
Thicken It Up If you would like to thicken your soup, add a bit of instant mashed potato flakes to the simmering soup. Mix thoroughly. Another great option is to add pureed cooked vegetables, such as carrots or peas.
Flavoring Stock Ever wondered about those inexpensive packages in the meat department? Pork neck bones, beef bones and ham hocks are ideal for flavoring stocks and soups. Pork neck bones are idea for hearty bean soup, as are ham hocks. ham hocks are also available smoked, adding a deeper element of flavor. Skim the foam after bringing liquid and bones to a boil, remove the bones, strain the sock into a separate container, then refrigerate for several hours. After refrigeration, remove the fat layer from the top and use the remaining stock in your soup.
Liquids Most soups have a water or stock base. You can use vegetable, chicken, or beef stock. You can also flavor your soup with canned tomatoes, vegetable juice or even the liquid you drain out of canned vegetables!
Creamy But Light In days past, making a roux from melted butter and flour, then adding heavy cream, was the only way to make a creamy soup. You can make your own cream soup by pureeing most or all of your cooked soup in a blender or food processor. Return the puree mixture to the remaining soup in the pan, stir to combine and add a little milk or cream.
Bouquet Garni A Bouquet Garni is a combination of fresh herbs (traditionally fresh thyme, parsley, and a bay leaf, though any combination you like can be used) bundled together and allowed to float in your soup to add flavor. Some cooks prefer to wrap the herbs in cheese cloth. Another, and much cheaper, alternative to cheese cloth is an everyday coffee filter! Place herbs into the filter (like a bowl) and secure the top with a piece of butcher's twine. it will resemble a small bag. Just float it in your soup and discard before serving.
Stretch That Budget Adding beans or lentils is a great way to add protein and save money. Beans are inexpensive and allow you to cut down on the amount of meat you add to your soup. Just be sure to soak the beans ahead of time according to the instructions on the bag.
Cool It Be sure to allow your soup to cool completely before freezing or refrigerating. If you are in a hurry, you can place the pot of soup into a sink of ice and stir. Keep the pot uncovered while the soup is cooling.
Here are some tips to help you plan for your next soup or stew.
Deglazing for Flavor After roasting meat, save the drippings in the bottom of the pan, deglaze then with some water on the stove top, and then freeze them. This adds delicious full flavor to your soup.
Juices, Juices If you ever juice tomatoes for a dish, or shred a large zucchini and squeeze out the excess, don't pour that nutrient filled juice down the sink! Place a strainer over a bowl and squeeze the juice out of your tomatoes and zucchinis into the bowl. Pour into a freezer bag, label, and save in the freezer. Simply add to your soup, replacing part of the water with your vegie juice.
Vegetable Cuttings If you make your own stocks, you know that celery, onions and carrots are a big part of adding flavor. Save celery roots, end cuttings, carrot shavings and end cuttings, and yes, even your onion skins. Keep them in a freezer bag and add to it as needed.
Frozen Bagged Vegetables Frozen vegetables are a great time saver when making soup. You can add frozen vegetables toward the end of cooking. First place the amount you want into a bowl, cover with warm water and let sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes, then drain and add to the soup in the last 15 minutes of cooking.
Individual Servings Freeze individual portions of soup in zipper sandwich bags, then simply allow to thaw partially in a bowl (while still in the bag. Open or cut the bag, remove partially frozen soup and thaw in the microwave.