Winter Homemade Soup Stock Recipes

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PHOTO: MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
The education of a soup maker inevitably begins with stocks.

Take the sting out of winter by stoking up the
stock pot with recipes excerpted from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS new
companion magazine, American Country.

Winter Homemade Soup Stock Recipe

He told the story at a party and may have been pulling
everyone’s leg. Still, it caused a stir–partly because it
revealed something of the magic of soup making and partly
because it sounded like a fairy tale. An anthropologist, he
had done fieldwork in a small rural village in northern
China before the Communist revolution. As far as he could
determine from local records and lore, he said, the fire
beneath the large, black, communal iron cooking pot in the
village center had been kept going for at least 400 years.
Each day–as they had evidently done for more than 15
generations–the villagers would toss in fresh greens,
herbs, spices, rice, knucklebones, chicken feet, bird
nests, what have you. And each day the soup changed. He had
nourished himself, he said, over an entire cold and bleak
winter from that ancient pot. “Moreover,” he added with a
wink, “the special qualities of the soup undoubtedly
account for the fact that I am now 120 years old.”

Although there is plenty of magic in soup, and a good bowl
of it can convince you that you will live forever, there is
controversy over how long a decent one should be kept
going. The truth is that after repeated beatings the
vegetable fibers break down and become mushy, while herbs
and spices lose the pungency that brought them to the pot
in the first place. What had been a symphony of distinct
flavors turns into homogenized noise. The French, who
worship soup, would never allow one to go downhill, knowing
full well that the key to a distinguished serving lies in
utterly fresh ingredients: greens, herbs, and, in
Marseilles, fish. The Chinese know this as
well–despite the anthropologist’s story–having
raised the art of soup making to positively Zen heights.

Even in America, before the advent of canning and
dehydration, self-respecting country cooks continually
urged their pupils (usually their daughters) to make the
time between garden and pot as short as possible.

And yet, soup is obviously more than liquid salad. Rather,
it is the wedding of the momentary and the established, the
fresh ingredients and the long-simmered broth. This stock,
the substance that can be nurtured and tended for days and
even weeks, is the magic. The stock of a good soup is like
a good house–commodious, mature, accepting, and
complementary to what goes in it.

Inevitably, the education of a soup maker begins with
stock. Marjorie M. Watkins knows this well: She learned her
soup making from her great-grandmother who began married
life and bore her first six of twelve children in a sod
house on the Kansas plains. Marjorie’s beef stock recipe,
which has provided the groundwork for innumerable delicious
meals, has stood the test of time.

Beef Stock Recipe

3 pounds stewing meat with bones, cut up
1 pound marrow or soup bones
3 quarts cold water
1 cup dry red table wine
1 large onion, quartered
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks and tops, chopped
2 tomatoes, quartered
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 thyme sprig
5 parsley sprigs
1 bay leaf
5 peppercorns
1 tablespoon salt

Brown the meat in a lightly oiled skillet, then place it in
a kettle with the water. Pour the wine into the skillet and
use it to scrape up the browned meat juices, then add this
mix to the kettle. Bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer
partly covered for 2 hours, occasionally skimming froth
from the stock’s surface. Then add remaining ingredients,
and simmer for 2 hours more. Remove meat and bones,
reserving meat for some other use. Strain stock through a
coarse vegetable sieve, then through a double layer of
cheesecloth. Cool stock to room temperature before
refrigerating or freezing.

Do not defat stock if storing, for the fat will rise and
congeal on the surface, acting as a sealant. Prior to use,
it can easily be removed. (Since freezing separates
ingredients, thawed stock should be briefly reboiled.)

If fresh stock is to be used immediately, however, spoon
off as much fat as possible from the surface. Floating an
ice cube in the stock will congeal the rest, or you can
sweep the surface with a chilled lettuce leaf. To clarify
either fresh or stored stock, add to each quart an egg
white slightly beaten in 2 teaspoons water, and 1 crushed
eggshell. Stir, heat, and boil for 2 minutes, then let
stand unstirred for 20 minutes. Strain through a double
layer of cheesecloth. Now you’re ready to make some serious
soup, perhaps this winter staple from the heartland:

Iowa Vegetable Soup Recipe

When Sylvia and Bob Chenault of Walcot, Iowa, sent MOTHER
this recipe, it was December 2 and the temperature on their
farm hovered right around the five degree mark. Simple to
prepare, the Chenaults’ warming recipe relies heavily on
produce from the family’s garden.

4 quarts beef stock
1-1/2 pounds soup meat
1/2 cup sliced onions
1 cup diced green pepper
1 cup diced kohlrabi
2 cups sliced carrots
1 cup snow peas (or shelled peas)
1 cup long-grain brown rice
1 quart home-canned tomatoes
1 pint tomato sauce
Salt and garlic powder to taste

Warm beef stock, add meat, and let simmer about 1/2 hour.
Add other ingredients, and simmer 1 hour or until
vegetables are tender. Makes 5 quarts, appetites robust,
and cheeks rosy.

Chicken Stock Recipe

5 pounds chicken, cut up, with giblets (less the liver)
3 quarts cold water
2 onions, quartered
2 carrots, chopped
2 leeks and tops, chopped
5 parsley sprigs
2 thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
4 peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1 tablespoon salt

Add chicken and giblets to water and slowly bring to rapid
boil. Simmer for 1 hour, periodically skimming off the
froth. Add remaining ingredients, except salt, cover, and
simmer for 1 more hour. Remove meat from bones but return
them to kettle, then add salt, and simmer 45 minutes.
Strain through fine sieve, and cool to room temperature.
Refrigerate or freeze in covered container or use at once.

Hundreds of recipes call for this versatile base, but here
is one that is utterly simple and appropriately seasonal:

Chestnut Soup Recipe

1 cup chestnuts
2 quarts chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Shell and blanch the chestnuts. Place 2 cups of the chicken
stock in a large pot, and cook the chestnuts in it until
they are tender. Remove the chestnuts with a slotted spoon,
salt them lightly, and set them aside. Add the remainder of
the stock to the hot stock in the pot, and bring to a boil.
Put the chestnuts in a soup tureen, pour the stock over
them, and serve at once.

Fish Stock Recipe

2 pounds fish heads, bones, skin, tails, but no gills
2 small onions, diced
2 stalks celery with tops, chopped
2-1/2 cups cold water
2 cups dry white wine
3 parsley sprigs
1 bay leaf
1 thyme sprig
1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
5 peppercorns
Salt to taste

Combine everything but salt in kettle, bring to boil, and
simmer covered for 45 minutes, now and then skimming off
froth. Add salt at the last moment. Strain, cool at room
temperature, and then refrigerate in closed container. The
stock can be stored and frozen, although, as with just
about every thing, fresh is best. The following gumbo is a
favorite in New Orleans:

Shrimp Gumbo Recipe

2 shallots, diced
1/2 green pepper, diced
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 cups okra, sliced
2 stalks celery with tops, sliced
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups water
1 pound small, peeled, deveined shrimp
2-1/2 cups fish stock
1 cup long-grain rice, co
oked
Salt and pepper to taste

Sauté shallots and peppers in olive oil. Add okra,
celery, salt, and water, and bring to boil. Cover and
simmer at low heat for 10 minutes. Add shrimp and stock,
and simmer 5 minutes more, no longer; shrimp are delicate.
Add rice, stir, and season with salt and pepper.