It's October and the cool weather is fast approaching and now is the time that fresh hearty soups begin to enter my family's menu rotation. Actually I like soups any time of the year, my wife however like many people prefer soups only during the cooler months. Just as a building has to have a strong foundation to stay upright, great soups rely on a solid stock and soup base to give them depth of flavor and character. In simpler terms, 'garbage in equals garbage out'. And because you will use your soup base to make soups throughout the year you definitely want to make sure you have a great base.
The basic liquid I use for my soup base is a variation on a 'white stock.' The term white stock refers to any stock made with chicken, rabbit, lamb or beef bones, mirepoix, and a small amount of seasonings and spices. A brown stock is simply a white stock with tomatoes or a tomato product added to the stock. A vegetable stock is made without bones and can be either a white or brown stock. See my article 'Investing In Good Stocks Will Save You Money' on our blog.
So what exactly is a soup base? In this instance, a soup base is a variation or enhancement of a stock. It is a stock with all the basic vegetables that I use in my soups added to the stock. I then can this soup base in quart or pint jars so that whenever I need to make a quick soup, all I have to do is open a jar and pour it in a saucepan and add any additional ingredients to the base, then heat and serve. If you do not have the equipment to can the soup base you can freeze it in plastic containers.
Soup bases can be very basic with just a few ingredients (onions, celery, and garlic) or they can be more complex with more ingredients. I like to sauté peeled and chopped yellow squash and zucchini which I then puree with a little stock and add to my soup base to give it a greater depth of flavor and nutrients as I am a big texture eater and do not care to eat zucchini or squash any other way except in soups. A friend of mine likes to add fresh kale and chunked vegetables to his soup base. For Asian inspired soups I like to add chopped cabbage or bok choy. The bottom line is, make your soup base the way you and your family like it. Keep in mind the more basic or generic (for lack of a better term) the more versatile your soup base will be. Versatility not only gives you more options, but helps you stretch your food dollars.
There are a couple of different ways to make and can this soup base. The most basic way would be to take your white stock and add all the vegetables you want in your soup base bring it to a simmer and then ladle the soup base into your pint or quart jars and process them as necessary. The second way, and the method I use, is to prep all of the vegetables that you want in your soup base and then put equal amounts into each of your canning jars. Bring your stock to a simmer and then ladle the hot stock into the jars and process the jars as necessary.
The first method is probably the easiest, but it is also more difficult to get an even distribution of your vegetables into each canning jar using this method. The second method requires a little more time as you have to measure the vegetables and put an equal amount into each jar, but you get a more consistent product each time. I prefer the second method as I want my soup bases to be as consistent as possible from jar to jar. My grandmother however, just dumped everything into the stock pot and ladled it into to jars and processed them, and her soups were great. Anyway, try it both ways, one method is not more correct than the other. However, you get a more even distribution of ingredients in your soup base following the second method, and consistency is important to me.
Basic Soup Base
1 gallon (128 ounces) of white stock3 large onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 stalks of celery, chopped
Place your stock in a stockpot and bring to boil, then reduce the heat to low just to keep the stock hot. While the stock is coming up to temperature, start prepping your vegetables. Obviously if you already have fresh white or brown soup stock heated in your stockpot do not have to do this.
I like to dice my onions small to medium dice, and roughly chop the carrots (if using them) and celery the same size. I then distribute the chopped vegetables evenly between 4 to 5 quart or 8 to 10 pint jars that have washed and sterilized. It does not matter how you layer the vegetables they will all get mixed up when they are processed in the pressure canner (see canning instructions below).
Storing Or Preserving Your Soup Base
If you are not going to can your soup base but want to freeze it instead, you should add all the chopped vegetables to your stock and cook them for about 20 minutes to throughly cook the raw vegetables. Then cool the soup base and place it in plastic freezer containers. Keep in mind that liquid expands when it freezes so if you decide to freeze your soup stock only fill the containers about 75% full. If you have a vacuum sealer, you can freeze your soup base in small containers, then once it is fully hardened take it out of the container and vacuum seal your blocks of soup base.
Most of the time I prefer to can my stocks and soup bases. Fortunately, I have the storage space and the equipment to do so, but I understand not everyone does. The added advantage to canning my soup base is that it does not take up precious space in my freezer and the canned soup base is shelf stable until opened. All soup bases are low-acid foods and low acids foods whether they contain meat or meat products must be pressure canned to make sure they are safe for you and your family. For more information regarding pressure and water bath canning check out the article 'To Pressure Or Not To Pressure, That Is The Question' on our blog.
Pressure Canning Your Soup Base
By the time you reach this point you have done all of the complicated stuff, now comes the easy part. One at a time, ladle your hot stock into your vegetable filled sterilized jars leaving 1-inch of headspace. Then, wipe the rim of the jar with a damp clean paper towel. Place the heated lid on the jar then hand tighten the ring and using your tongs, place the jar in the simmering pressure canner. Repeat this process until your canner is full, then place the lid on the canner and process at the recommended time and pressure (see below).
If you have more soup base to process than your canner will hold, only fill enough jars to completely fill the canner. Once the first batch of soup base has been processed and removed from the canner, check the water level in the canner and adjust it as necessary. Then fill additional jars with soup base following the previous instructions and process the remaining soup base. Continue to do this until all of your base has been safely processed.
If per chance, you do not have enough jars of canned soup base to fill the pressure canner (which happens to me all the time) Take empty jars filled with warm water without lids and add those to the canner to take up the empty space. These water filled jars will keep your precious bounty from falling over and possibly breaking during the pressure canning process. Remember to take care as the soup base in the canning jars will be boiling and quite hot to touch. The following are the USDA recommended canning times depending on altitude and jar size for meat broth.
Recommended Processing Time In Dial Gauge Pressure Canner
Pint Jars 20 minutes at 11lbs (0 – 1,000ft), 12lbs (2,001 – 4,000ft), 13lbs (4,001 – 6,000ft) and 14lbs (6,001 or greater).
Quart Jars 25 minutes at 11lbs (0 – 1,000ft), 12lbs (2,001 – 4,000ft), 13lbs (4,001 – 6,000ft) and 14lbs (6,001 or greater).
Processing Time In Weighted Gauge Pressure Canner
Pint Jars 20 minutes at 10lbs (0 – 1,000ft), 15lbs (greater than 1,001ft altitude).
Quart Jars 25 minutes at 10lbs (0 – 1,000ft), 15lbs (greater than 1,001ft altitude).
Homemade soups and stews are an inexpensive way to feed your family. Making your own soups from stock or soup base is a great way to make delicious inexpensive soups and stews. Having a soup base on hand allows you to open the canning jar pour it into your saucepan and add some meat, beans or additional vegetables and make a quick and delicious meal that your family will love.
This article kind of goes hand-in-hand with my article on making homemade stocks as I usually make stock and soup base at the same time. In my next article, I will be showing you how to make several soups straight in the jar by adding your soup base and a few additional ingredients along with your soup base to give you complete ready to eat meals.
If you are looking to find additional ways to stretch your food dollars, be sure and check out some of my other articles on the subject on our blog. And as always, if you have enjoyed this article, please share it with your friends and don't forget to send us a friend request on Facebook and Google+ so that you will not miss out on any of our new articles.
Additional Articles On Our Blog:
Additional References On the Web:
Complete Guide to Home Canning, Guide 1: Principles of Home Canning, United States Department Of Agriculture, http://nchfp.uga.edu/publications/usda/GUIDE%201%20Home%20Can.pdf
Pressure Canning Low Acid Foods, http://www.freshpreserving.com/tools/pressure-canning