Kitchen Garden

Making Soup

Root Vegetable Soup
Root Vegetable Soup

LAKE MACBRIDE— It’s hard to go wrong making soup. The dish is tolerant of variation, and is as diverse as can be. Soup is a pantry-based dish, good to use vegetables up, and has been the basis for meals since forever. It’s a never ending experiment in living. Here is how I made it today.

There were five components to this batch of soup: roots, soup base, canned soup, barley and frozen corn and peas.

I picked five different types of root vegetables from the refrigerator drawer and counter: hakurei and purple top turnips, rutabaga, kohlrabi and potato. The point was to use what was on hand. These roots were grown in my garden, and on three different farms, so I know them well. I peeled and diced them into small, uniformly sized pieces, then covered them with cold water in a Dutch oven, and cooked until tender. I poured the whole lot into a strainer placed inside a stainless steel bowl to separate the roots and save the cooking water. The roots went back into the Dutch oven, reserving the liquid.

Soup base is a form of local frugality. In our kitchen, I make and use a lot of vegetable stock. What I call soup base is the remains of vegetables after straining away the cooked stock. I process the cooked vegetables through a food mill and can the result in a water bath. Soup base adds both flavor and texture to soups, and helps thicken them. At this point, I added a quart to the roots.

A farmer friend had a lot of kale at the end of the 2012 season. She typically mows everything down and plants a cover crop, but called me the day before to ask if I wanted any kale. I took a bushel and made soup from the pantry and canned it. The quart jars can be eaten as-is, but lately I prefer to use them as an ingredient. I added a quart of vegetable soup to the pot.

After stirring the mixture, I added enough of the root cooking liquid to cover, along with a quarter cup of pearled barley.

The mixture simmered the better part of four hours— until it was soup. At the end, I added a cup each of frozen peas and cut corn.

The next step to making a meal is flexible. The old way was to lay a plank of thick, coarse bread in the bottom of a bowl and ladle soup on it. It could be topped with bits of browned meat for omnivores, or seitan or fried or baked tofu for vegetarians. Salt and pepper and you’re ready for a hearty winter meal made from local ingredients, one that stands up to the test of time.