The weather has been unusually mild here in northern New Hampshire this month with temperatures in the forties and fifties instead of the low thirties. One can certainly welcome Old Man Winter holding off for a brief spell, though now and then he has sent a reminder he is not far off. Last week, several nights had heavy fog coupled with temperatures just below freezing. This triggered the formation of what is known as hoarfrost. The following mornings as I went walking, I was treated to the sight of branches, leaves, berries and other objects suddenly having what appeared to look like crystal thorns growing out of them.
It was quite a striking sight, not one you see very often. They melted quickly once the sun rose high enough to shine on them. On some mornings puddles that had collected during the day froze on their surfaces overnight and since the ground underneath was not frozen, the water would drain away leaving a shell of ice supported only at its edges. For years (starting when I was a child) I called this ‘krickle ice’ because that’s the noise it would make when I put my foot slowly down on top of it. I have since found out this type of ice formation is called cat ice. Personally I like krickle ice better.
With the onset (or not) of cold weather, thoughts turn to the making of soup to warm you on chilly winter days. Both cook books and the Internet abound with countless recipes of varying complexity. I avoid those with a long list of ingredients. The making of soup is not rocket science and shouldn’t require a dictionary to decipher what some of the items are. Soup can be hot or cold. It can be clear or thick. Meat and/or vegetables can be used to create the broth. Every region on the globe has its own variation of this ancient comfort food which some evidence suggests dates back to the Stone Age.
The latest food fad is the making of bone broth soup which advocates are touting as a cure-all for what ails us. While much of the claims for bone broth and its health benefits are fairly over-blown, broth made from animal bones or vegetables does deliver a nutritious boost to any diet. Elderly people who have difficulty chewing, sick people who don’t feel much like eating or even just picky kids all benefit from this easy-to-make food.
I don’t waste a moment of my time with the prepared or condensed soups sold in the grocery store. Their heavy load of sodium and overcooked ingredients makes a pretty feeble excuse for soup. They simply can’t compare with home-made soup using fresh ingredients. The easiest method is to collect left-over beef, chicken or turkey bones after dinner. If you aren’t going to use them right away, you can put them in the freezer to keep until you are ready.
Then using a stock pot, toss in the bones, fill with water, bring to a boil then turn immediately down to a simmer and leave for about an hour. Pull out the bones, clean off any meat (which should drop right off) and put the meat back into the broth. Chop up whatever vegetables you desire (I use carrots, celery and onions and occasionally add a chopped zucchini or summer squash). For turkey and chicken soups I add parsley and thyme. You can use whatever herbs or spices you prefer. I often toss in pasta. Then cook for an additional twenty minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Add salt and pepper to taste in the last five minutes or so of cooking. That’s it!
The nice thing about soup made this way, is that you can add leftovers, like peas or beans or rice, which you don’t quite have enough of to make a meal with, so they don’t go to waste. You can also freeze the soup to thaw out as needed for a meal or a side dish. I like to use mason jars, filling them about two thirds full to allow for expansion so the jars won’t crack. Plastic freezer containers tend to get a greasy feel to them if you use them to store soup and then want to reuse them afterwards.
Once your soup is ready, add a few crackers and enjoy!