How You Do: Making Homemade Soup

[I used to think I knew everything…until I found myself stranded in the middle of adulthood with no map and no one to guide me when I got lost. I have learned a lot since then – from how to balance a checkbook to how to sew on a button – and will share my wisdom with you.

Every Monday I will be back to teach you how to do something useful, even if it also happens to be completely random. Because, hey, you never know when you just might need to know how to change a tire…or mix a perfect martini.]

It’s that time of year again—a chill is in the air, you’ll freeze without your scarf, and a salad just isn’t going to cut it for dinner anymore. You need heartiness, and what better way to get it than from soup?

But hold the phone. I’m not talking about Chicken and Stars here. Ohhhh, no. I’m talking about real soup; soup that you make with fresh vegetables and your hands (although please refrain from putting your actual hands in the soup).

Homemade soup is not just something your grandmother makes. It’s a very simple equation: ingredients + broth + flavor = soup. Each of these components can be mixed and matched to create tons of awesome soups, so here are some basics to get you started.

Ingredients

My favorite kind of soup to make is a variety that I affectionately deem “hobo soup”—it involves chopping up whatever I have in the fridge and tossing it in a big pot with some broth. If you are slightly more refined (which you probably are), you may want to decide on a kind of soup before you start making it. Get together the things you need—broccoli and cheese for cream of broccoli soup, pasta and carrots and celery and chicken for chicken noodle, flour for dumpling soup, etc. Basic soup recipes are available online, so when in doubt, Google. Get all your ingredients together and prepare them by chopping, sifting, and sorting. If you want more flavor to your soup, you can sauté certain ingredients (such as onions or celery) before adding broth.

Broth

The broth is the important base of your soup. You could also call it the stock. If you have leftover turkey stock from Thanksgiving, don’t throw it away—use it to make soup. If you don’t have any stock, don’t worry—you can use canned vegetable broth or chicken/beef/whatever broth. If you’re making a creamy soup, use milk as your broth. And in a real pinch, you can use water. Figure that you need between 1 and 1 ½ cups of broth for each serving of soup. When all of your ingredients are prepared, pour broth in your pot and add the ingredients. Simmer covered or uncovered for at least 20 minutes or until all of the ingredients are fully cooked and at the consistency you want. If you’d like a thick broth, whisk together 2 tablespoons of broth with 1 tablespoon of flour, and add that mixture to your broth.

Flavor

Much of your soup’s flavor will come from the broth, but it’s nice to add a little something extra. Italian Wedding soup will include basil, for example, and you may want to add cheese to a cream soup or a little bit of cumin to kick up a pumpkin soup. Stick with standbys for the first few times you make your own soup, but after that, you should have a good idea of how you can branch out and still end up with a delicious flavor every time.

All right. After writing that, I’m going to go dig into my leftover corn chowder (homemade soup keeps really well, by the way). I’ll share my recipe if you guys will share yours. What’s your favorite kind of homemade soup?

[Image courtesy of whatwereeating.com.]

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