Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Humble Beauty of Soup

I'm a soup girl. Not the store-bought, canned variety -- homemade soup. I ate a lot of it growing up and love it still. And while I fully admit that there are some perfectly wonderful soups that are well worth making on purpose (a good, creamy clam chowder is one), the best kinds of soup, to my mind, are those made with what one has on hand.

On Christmas Day, I roasted a pork picnic (bone-in). This typically inexpensive roast is wonderfully flavorful and makes a great soup or stew afterward. We feasted on Christmas Day and had loads of meat left on the roast. I wrapped it up and stuck it in the fridge.

On the fourth day of Christmas, I put the roast in a Dutch oven, covered it with water, and set it to boil. Then I simmered it for a few hours, til the meat was falling off the bone. The last 30 minutes, I added some cut up carrots and potatoes. I forgot to add some onion, so I threw in some onion powder -- I really missed the onion, though.

When the vegetables were cooked but still a tad crunchy, I removed the bone and meat hunks. Then I cut up the meat and put it back in the pot along with some some leftover limas. All other leftovers are worth consideration here, as well. The broth tasted thin, so I grabbed a jar of ham-flavored Better than Bouillon paste and added a tablespoon or so to the soup. This made all the difference in the world and really gave the soup depth it had lacked before. Then I let it simmer a bit longer to finish up the vegs and let the flavors blend.

(Aside: I've come to prefer Better than Bouillon base over bouillon cubes in the last few years. I have jars of chicken, ham, and beef flavors in my refrigerator as I type. I use it to flavor vegetables, soups, stews, you name it. The sodium is, of course, high, so take that into account if you need to watch such things. However, a tablespoon in a big pot of soup is not really that much.)

This was probably the best soup I've ever made. Good thing, since I had quite a vat of it in the end. I had some cornbread (not the yellow, sweet kind, but the Real Thing) in the freezer, and it was the perfect complement. The rest of my family (sweet yellow cornbread muffin lovers, all) preferred saltines.

And when the weather is chilly and damp, like it is today where I live, there's nothing like soup for soothing body and soul. Happy New Year!

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