My husband and I have been fans of Mother Earth News ever since it was a scruffy magazine headquartered on a kitchen table and printed on rough wood pulp paper. So, my brother’s 1975 Christmas gift was perfect: a copy of the Mother Earth News Almanac. Just as scruffy as its magazine sibling, the Almanac was a small 4-by-7-inch volume.
The folksy guide was filled with practical information for back-to-the-landers with homesteading tips, natural remedies, organic gardening guidance, and more, as well as simple, old-fashioned line-drawn illustrations. We devoured it. More precisely, we devoured the cheesy-potato soup, the recipe found in its pages — we devoured it often.
But then we packed up all our belongings and moved a couple of times. Boxes remained unpacked for too long. We drooled over memories of the cheesy-potato soup, especially on cold winter nights, but we couldn’t remember exactly how it was made. Over time, we even forgot where the recipe had come from in the first place. We resigned ourselves to the idea that the soup was lost to us forever.
A couple of years ago when we went through our occasional ritual of sorting through our small library of books, discarding some to make way for others, we came across our well-worn copy of the Mother Earth News Almanac. Well, you know how it is when a reader finds a well-loved old book. We stopped working on the task at hand and took a little trip down memory lane as we perused the book’s pages. I turned to a page where a scrap of paper served as an ancient bookmark. And there it was: our favorite cheesy potato soup!
Like much of the book, the recipe for Cheesy Potato Soup was a little imprecise, as indicated by the introductory statement about yield. “For two hungry people,” it said. (For any but the heartiest appetites, this recipe would serve twice that number.) It spoke of “a little larger than medium” potatoes. It spoke of “a chunk” of cheese — it was so 1970s.
I’ve adapted the recipe a bit and now make it with our own organic, homegrown potatoes. Somehow, food one grows oneself tastes infinitely better. And potatoes are one of the easiest plants to grow and store. For guidance on growing organic potatoes, click here. For potato storage tips, click here.Here’s my 21st Century version of that delicious Cheesy Potato Soup recipe.
Yield: 4 servings
• 3 Tbsp flour
• 3 Tbsp melted butter
• Cheddar or longhorn cheese, cut into bite-size cubes (enough to fill each soup bowl 1/3 full)
• 2-3 Tbsp diced onion per soup bowl
• Apple cider vinegar
• Salt and pepper
1. Boil the potatoes in a large pot. Drain, reserving the liquid.
2. Mash the potatoes in the pot, leaving a few chunky pieces for texture.
3. Add drained liquid back to the pot to obtain desired thickness. If it’s still too thick after all the liquid has been returned to the pot, add more water to achieve desired consistency.
4. Add salt and pepper to taste.
5. In a small skillet over low heat, brown 3 Tbsp flour in 3 Tbsp melted butter, stirring constantly to prevent burning. When it’s golden brown, add this mixture to the pot and bring to a boil. Cook for 2-3 minutes to thicken, stirring constantly.
6. Fill serving bowls 1/3 full with bite-sized pieces of cheese (in my opinion, the sharper the better). Fill bowls with the hot soup mixture.
7. Add to each bowl: 2-3 Tbsp diced onion and a glug (approx. 2 Tbsp or to taste) of apple cider vinegar.
8. As good as the mixture of potatoes and cheese can be, the addition of onion and vinegar is what makes this recipe extraordinary (not to mention that they are the healthiest ingredients).
Rib-sticking thick, this soup is a great comfort food for a chilly wintry evening. What would make this soup even better? Adding my award-winning cornbread for a tasty, filling combo.
This well-worn copy of the 1973 Mother Earth News Almanac includes the recipe for our favorite cheesy potato soup.
And here’s great news! The Almanac, which has been out of print for decades, is once more available. It’s been updated, of course, but maintains all the charm of the original, right down to those delightful line drawings. You can get your own copy from the Mother Earth News Store and other sources.Carole Coates is a gardener and food preservationist, family archivist, essayist, poet, photographer, modern homesteader. You can follow her Mother Earth News blog posts here. You can also find Carole at Living On the Diagonal, where she shares her take on life, including modern homesteading, food preparation and preservation, and travel as well random thoughts and reflections, personal essays, poetry, and photography.
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