Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Best Soups Are Made At Home

I've waxed on previously about the new found love of soup I've acquired in my aging twilight years, now that I've passed the actuarial median of most married North American males.  Soup is a dish that as little as 10 and 12 years ago I scoffed at, and prior to that, typically avoided.  Now, as an older middle aged guy, I've grown fond of good soups.  And dammit, the best soups are made at home, from scratch.  Sometimes a restaurant can do a good job, but not as good as home.  And while I see canned soup as a "quick, last resort" if I am in a hurry, and I have other things to throw in it - like organic mushrooms or organic baby carrots - even the best processed soups come from giant vats at massive industrial complexes.  Just not the same as making your own, with the best ingredients.

So last weekend, I found this old ham bone, frozen in a plastic bag in the freezer.  It was from the delicious spiral cut honey baked ham that our family enjoyed over Christmas when our son was visiting, and there was still some meat and fat left on the bones, and of course, marrow left In the bones.  I'd also gone to Costco and purchased the GIANT (it's like 5 lbs) bag of Bunny Baby Organic Carrots the day before.  So I had this idea, of making a soup.  Very simple.

0) defrost the frozen ham bone for 2 days in the fridge
1) Get out the slow cooker, and turn it on HIGH.
2) add 1/2 a stick of butter (I prefer organic, happy cow butter, but we were all out, so I had to use some Safeway butter... eh.. it was Ok)
3) cover the bottom of the slow cooker with baby carrots, one level deep, after the butter melts.
4) add the defrosted ham bone, in the center of the slow cooker.
5) add two chopped up organic tomatoes from the fresh market -  they were starting to wrinkle a tiny bit, but they were still tasty and provided copious amounts of juice
6) add two finely chopped shallots from the farmer's market.  You can use onions or leeks if you want, but I love shallots.   Their flavor is subtle, AND, they tend to give me very lucid, very vivid dreams after I've eaten them.
7) add one chopped up organic red bell  pepper from Trader Joes. 
8) take two LARGE handfuls of dried, organic basil that you gathered from your own back yard basil bush before the first frost last winter, and CRUSH them, into very small fragments that you can sprinkle around the whole slow cooking pan.
9) add about 1/4 cup of pear infused white wine vinegar (we had a bottle in the fridge)  drizzling all around the ham bone but not on it.
10) you can drizzle about one teaspoon of organic honey on it (I did) but I found the final mix to be a tiny bit too sweet (remember, it WAS a honey baked ham originally).. so if you like the soup to be a little sweet, do this, otherwise, avoid it.
11) set the kitchen timer for 2 hours, so that you can remember to turn DOWN the heat setting to simmer
12) after 2 hours, lower it to a simmer for another 2 or 3 or 4 hours.
13) season with sea salt and black pepper, if desired.
Serve hot, right out of the pan. 

It was fantastic - other than being a tiny bit sweet - and I did not leave a single drop in the bowl.  The ham bone was so tender, I could actually pry apart the hip joint, and found myself using my carnivore incisors to render meat from bone, that my knife couldn't quite get - a little barbarian like, but arrrrgh! Well worth it!  And I scooped out as much marrow as I could get to on the 5 inch long bones.  Tasty!

Dr Desert Flower said she liked her bowl of soup, but I loved mine.  The recipe was completely ad lib, with ad hoc ingredients.  the flavor, and the aroma with which the soup filled our home, was memorable.

I think only old men (and old women too) can make delicious soups at home, And appreciate them.  Younger people might be able to make them... but it takes decades of perspective to really appreciate a slow cooked soup.


  1. Homemade soups can also be extremely quick, if you've got some nice stock on hand. I make chicken stock regularly and keep useable portions in the freezer. An immersion blender helps as well.

    E.g. quick mushroom soup: cook mushrooms over high heat in butter, adding a bit of salt, cayenne, black pepper at the end, then a generous squeeze of lemon juice. Add hot stock, and blend (puree). Serve like that or, for heartier version, stir in a dollop of heavy cream.

    But quick veggie soup of any kind: cook briefly, puree in stock, spice as desired.

  2. Traci recommended blending / pureeing as well... but then that would have involved cleaning up the blender, which invariably falls to me to do, since only I have the hand strength to break the seal on the old glass 25 year old blender we have. The extra 20 minutes of disassembly and cleaning is something I'd rather forgo. And, I sort of like seeing all the ingredients, in my spoon, getting a slightly different taste each time I bring it to mouth. Chacun ses merde.

  3. That's where an immersion blender comes in handy. Not only is it much easier to clean up, you don't have to deal with the mess and potential disaster of trying to pour a pot of hot stuff into a blender container.


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