Soup can be a meal to itself or a side-dish served with sandwiches and salads. A cup of soup is a great appetizer for a light meal. A bowl of soup served with hot bread makes for a hearty meal that can take the chill off and warm the soul. Soups range from thin, broth-like soups with few ingredients to heavier cream-style chowders with meat, seafood and vegetable contents that make for a substantial dish.
Spices and herbs can be used to add flavor to soups and chowders, but the basic seasoning comes from vegetables. Making soup stock is a great example of using vegetables for flavoring. The ingredients that go into a soup stock may change depending on the kind of soup being made, but the process is the same. Large chunks of vegetables are used for flavoring and then removed prior to final cooking.
To make a sort of generic soup stock that can be seasoned to taste and used for most any kind of soup, fill a large cooking pot half full with water. Add a whole cooking onion, peeled and cut in half, a whole celery stalk, including the leafy tips and snapped in half, and a whole carrot cut into a couple large pieces.
A cleaned whole chicken or a couple of thighs and wings can be added to the pot for making chicken soup. If vegetable soup is desired, omit the meat. Heat the cooking vessel to boiling. Reduce the heat to a simmer for an hour or longer until the meat is ready to fall off the bone. When the chicken is thoroughly cooked, remove it from the pot.
At this point the large vegetables that were used to flavor the soup stock are removed. If the original celery, carrot and onion were left in the cooking pot, they would be an unappealing mush by the time the soup is ready to be served, so they are removed. In this case these vegetables were used only for their flavorings, which have been extracted by the hot water into the soup stock.
To continue making the chicken soup de-bone the chicken and reserve the meat for later. Chopped or cubed vegetables, like carrots, celery and potatoes, are added to the hot soup stock. Because the chicken is already cooked, it is added back to the pot when the vegetables are done cooking. When everything is cooked through and seasoned to taste, the soup is ready to eat.
A satisfying part of cooking at home is that you get to make your food just how you like it. When you start with fresh ingredients there is no guess-work as to what it is you’re eating, and it can be a lot less expensive compared to eating out all the time. Purchasing cans of chicken or vegetable broth is convenient, but more expensive than making your own soup stock.