NewBook in the Home Stretch (I hope!) And Soup.

NewBook shed several thousand words when I pulled out the stuff that was on the wrong track, and the stuff that didn’t belong in this book at all.   There may be more fossils to be removed but…several thousand new words have come along and are about to make connections that flow back through the other books.  I did have to spend some hours researching the design of train cars/carriages/coaches/people movers by any name, around this planet, to find what I thought would fit Slotter Key.  And then design a custom private one that would, maybe, work in a real train.  A fun diversion, with not enough (alas) pictures of private ones currently in use.  I’ve seen one from outside (it was on the rear of a train I was on as a passenger, and I saw it when I left the train and there it was…mine (in the book) is not exactly like it.

Other events of the past few weeks: making soup as the weather has turned cooler.  The first soup left only one quart for the freezer, as the family fell upon it like starving wolves (not that wolves eat soup, that I know of.)  The second and third sent two and then four to the freezer, but one was thawed out two days after going in.  My soup making heritage goes back generations, and though I’ve added some tricks I wasn’t specifically taught, the basics were there when, as a child, I would help my mother cook by cutting up whatever produce was going into that particular soup.  Making soup, stews, pies for the freezer was a winter thing because our summers were hot and (in the early years) un-airconditioned.  We lived in an area that grew vegetables in winter (along with citrus), cotton in summer, forage in spring.    One big difference in soups my mother made and I make is that she really liked English peas and I really don’t.   And though I was fine with cabbage in soup as a child and until about age 40-45, one day the cabbage family made war on my innards.   So I don’t use it, or its relatives.

Most soups in the last few years have included the diced tomato & green chili mix by Ro-tel, sometimes with additions of other tomato products.  Our son really likes yellow corn, so they include yellow corn, and after seeing Lidia Bastianich’s cooking show years back, I started trying spinach in some soups.  Also from her show, I tried using chopped olives (good!) and mushrooms (also good!) and I was already using my mother’s onion/celery/carrot/tomato/Bell pepper and the occasional zucchini.  And garlic, which I use a lot more than she did.  When we had our best garden in San Antonio, I grew several varieties of beans for dry beans and first tried mixing bean varieties in a pot of beans.   Using dry beans in a vegetable soup (not just in a pot of beans) adds heft to the liquid.  Even a couple of cans of that kind of beans (black beans, white beans, red beans) will enrich the broth, but mixing them and starting with a long soak first really does wonders for it.   And the other vegetables lighten the beans, which can be difficult to keep from turning dull and uninteresting by the third day.  A soup like this can be refreshed easily with parsley, lime juice, and a small amount of fresh carrot and celery.

The current big soup is in a 12 quart pot, and the base is 4 cups of mixed dry beans (7 varieties: 2 white, 2 red, 2 spotted, and black), a package of smoked pork hocks, a carrot, diced, a considerable part of a bunch of celery, diced, 2 onions, diced, 3 ten-ounce cans of Ro-tel, 2 cups of frozen corn kernels, 2 cups of frozen French-cut green beans.  It’s resting overnight like that.  Tomorrow, as it’s a winter soup, it will get a cup and a half of barley and  dollop of yellow mustard to brighten it.  Maybe the spinach.  Mushrooms and green olives will show up after our next trip to the store.

The previous soup (the weekend soup,  consumed by tonight) was a chicken-vegetable I made last March, and threw a few chopped-up pork hocks into yesterday to stretch it for another day or so.  I hadn’t planned to make a new soup today, but overnight a front came in and it was cold, rainy, and windy all day.  So…soup weather.


18 thoughts on “NewBook in the Home Stretch (I hope!) And Soup.

  1. I’ve been making back-to-back pea soup. I don’t usually freeze my soups, but if I’m planning ahead, I’ll make a big batch and pressure can it.

  2. I’m sure I freeze soup because my mother froze her soups…cooking a batch of something freezable every cool/cold Saturday in our short not-very-cold winters, so she could come home from work in the long and very hot summers, and just defrost something for dinner. Also I remember the day the pressure cooker she had before the freezer blew its top off. I was young enough to be kept out of the kitchen (so…three, maybe?) when big cooking was going on. The old gas stove was cranky and went foomph! when she lit the oven. But the BANG!! when the pressure cooker self-destructed and made a dent in the ceiling, and the brown remains of pot roast and gravy dripping from the ceiling and down the wall were…memorable. She never used a pressure cooker again, nor have I. I have done water-bath canning of things it’s safe to do that with…jams, jellies, high-acid tomatoes we grew.

    Do you use ham bone or salt pork in your pea soup? And is it the only soup you make or just your favorite for canning?

    But the freezer is my friend in the wilderness.

    1. I use kielbasa in most of my soups. We tend to eat more sausages than ham. I had the same visions of exploding pressure cookers. I have one I’ve used just for canning on a gas stove. I also have an InstantPot which I use for cooking. That’s nice when I decide I want to make soup and forgot to soak the beans. It’s also great for making refried beans.

      1. Chris, I’m using pork hocks now because they’re readily available in a local supermarket at some seasons, and cheap per pound compared to other things. I’ve used the tougher cuts of beef for beef-vegetable soup (eventually, the toughest available these days gives up and it has a lot of flavor.) Kielbasa is not my favorite sausage, though I’ve used it with pasta. Our local supermarket chain has some smoked beef sausages that look kinda like kielbasa (or sausages labeled kielbasa…) I like the flavoring in them just that bit better. The hams I’ve used have been the remains of holiday hams, when I had a holiday ham…a bone in ham flavors a good-sized soup very well and all the difficult bits near the bone are flavor buds, too. I’ve also used chicken, turkey, venison, goat, sheep, as well as pork and beef as meat in a soup. (I don’t like goat or sheep that much in soup, but venison sausage is surprisingly good with pasta or in a soup, esp if it’s combined with pork. Other people may like goat or sheep (lamb or mutton) in soups and maybe I just don’t have the seasoning right.)

    2. That’s exactly why I have canned with a water bath but never pressure. I remember my parents canning tomatoes as a child, but none of the details stuck with me.

      Glad to hear that New Book progresses! I reread almost all of your books this spring and they were a great comfort!

      1. I haven’t done water bath canning for quite a while…not even sure where the rack for that pot is…but enjoyed it when we had a very productive little garden in San Antonio.

    1. So I’ve been told, Pence…better and safer…but there in my child-mind memory is the loud bang, my mother’s startled yelp (she was not given to crying out when things happened), the sight of that ceiling and wall. Plus all the warnings on the instructions for use of the things, which I’ve read at friends’ kitchens. I’m sure they’re safer than riding horses, in some ways, but I had no problem at all with horses until I was an adult. Pressure cookers lost my trust early, and since it’s easy to avoid them….I do.

  3. A friend gave me a bag of yellow split peas. I don’t know why she had them, but there they were. So, I had some carrots in the fridge that needed to be used, an onion, and a bit of ham in the freezer. I read about making split pea soup and decided that yellow peas would work as well as green ones, though green are supposed to make better soup. Chopped up the ham, the carrots, the onion and tossed in some split peas with some granulated garlic because I didn’t have any garlic cloves. About 2 hours later, it was pretty good soup. Mom and I ate it for two meals and the rest went into the freezer.

  4. I got two one-pound bags of black beans that didn’t quite go into a quart jar, plus there were a few red beans left in a jar. So they got soaked, rinsed, simmered, and had added an onion, a squash, some kale, and a sad half-slice of ham from the freezer. Good, though the beans never got really soft.

    1. Black beans take much longer to get soft than most others. Overnight soaking helps, but doesn’t change the fact that the white beans soften first, in my experience, and the black beans are several hours past most of the other colors. This is especially true of supermarket sacks of beans (I suspect because they’re older than special orders of special beans, though it may be the variety of black bean.) If I soak the beans overnight, and start the pot of beans by 8 am, the black beans will still be resistant little pebbles at noon, and not really soft at 4 pm. Or 5 pm. If we’re hungry, we just pick out the black ones and throw them back in the pot if the test one isn’t soft yet. It will be, eventually. Small red beans are also more resistant than red kidney beans, though they give up before the black beans do. But the flavor of the black beans adds a lot to a mixed pot, IMO, so it’s worth the long, long cooking time. Their flavor joins in long before they’re soft.

  5. I’m always surprised to learn that Americans sterilise their jams and jellies as though they were canning vegetables – this is quite unknown here. We do, of course, sterilise our jam jars by washing them in very hot water and then drying them out in a warm oven while making the jam, but then we seal them with a wax circle (these come in the packets of jam-pot covers) that sits on top of the jam or jelly, and then a wettened cellophane circle over the top of the jar, fastened on with an elastic band, and as the cellophane dries it forms another seal. No further treatment is necessary, and the jam lasts for years unopened.

    1. Annabel: Maybe it’s because our jar top boxes don’t come with wax circles, just the metal top to set on the jar and the metal rim that screws down onto it. I learned to make jams and jellies from a government bulletin, and it mentioned using wax but said the water-bath method was preferred because wax could crack and let in bacteria. And I didn’t want to try melting candle-ends to use for wax.

    2. My mother, born 1907, bought slabs of paraffin wax to seal jellies. Maybe a pound package, 2 slabs in each. She melted a slab or portion in a saucepan, and poured it on top of the jelly.
      She cooked with a pressure cooker, also, and never had an explosion that I recall. She was very careful.
      Had a pressure canner, too. Held maybe 6 or 7 quarts. Daddy gardened. She canned LOTS of green beans. We probably had green beans 2 meals a day.

  6. I’m in the UK and I don’t sterilise jams, marmalades or chutneys either, but of course our summers don’t get as hot as yours do which will be one consideration. I would sterilise things like preserved whole greengages, which would go into what we tend to call Kilner jars, because they were the most commonly available brand, which have the metal lid and the metal circle to screw down on the lid you mentioned. I’d also sterilise syrups or cordials as they have less sugar. For the ‘spreadables I use jars with a standard size screw on lid which you can buy, the lids are used new for chutneys, then reused for jams and marmalades.

    On pressure cookers, I had my grandmother’s ancient one when I went off to university, I grew up with both her and my mother using them and was perfectly happy to use mine. Having seen me use it a friend I shared a flat with asked if she could borrow it, I said “yes” and went through the instructions on it’s use, including “if you want to bring the pressure down quickly put the cooker under the cold tap for a while, when it stops hissing just slightly tilt the weights with the tip of a knife to see if the pressure is all the way back to normal, if it hisses, run more cold water over the cooker” then went out for three or four hours. When I returned I went to the kitchen to make a drink and noticed a clean patch above the cooker on the ten foot or so ceiling, as I looked at it wondering why someone had decided to clean the ceiling my friend came in. It turned out she had only remembered part of the instruction “if you want to cool the cooker down quickly”eliding the part about cooling the cooker to bring the pressure down but remembering “just slightly tilt the weights with the tip of a knife to see if the pressure is all the way back to normal”, so she tilted the weights at full pressure, they flew off and a stream of chicken stew shot straight up to the ceiling. She never used the pressure cooker again, and I learnt to be more careful when giving some one instructions, including writing them down when getting instructions wrong could be so dangerous – fortunately no one was hurt in the Great Pressure Cooker Disaster.

  7. Definitely soup weather here, about 30 degrees (F) this morning. I’m much more of a “follow a fixed recipe” kind of guy than an improviser. I’ll finish a batch of lentil stew tonight. It has carrots, onion, garlic, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, thyme, bay leaves, canned tomatoes, and a touch of spicy pepper.

    Here’s the recipe:
    (And I just learned after looking for this that FB no longer allows creating notes.)

    1. I discovered the joys and the perils of both the fixed recipe and improv methods of cooking, growing up in my mother’s kitchen. I do lean to improvisation, though I can follow a recipe…the first time. But each cook makes those decisions alone…I don’t have any rule to lay down (except no fruit or fish on MY pizza.)

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