I love cookbooks and recipes. I have an extensive collection—as you likely do—of modern and old-fashioned ones. Often, it’s the old ones that are the most fun to read.
One of my vintage books, which is all about freezing and canning, includes a section on how to get a complete meal right from your freezer. First, it suggests you take out a container of frozen soup and thaw it over low heat on the stovetop (this was pre-microwave, obviously). Then it says to take out sandwiches, salad, and dessert—all things you’ve made ahead of time.
Let’s be honest. How many of us have done this in recent years? Or ever? I do have memories of my mom doing this very thing back in the ‘70s. Maybe you do, too. This was the era before convenience foods took over the supermarket and our cupboards.
So, okay, maybe you don’t want to go all out and freeze pimento loaf sandwiches on white bread to have on hand for later, but you can freeze up a batch of broth or soup to make your life easier, tastier, and healthier.
When you have a free weekend day (or even a few hours), mix up a pot of soup for a future dinner on a busy weeknight. You can freeze it or can it for that quick meal later when your family is long on hunger, but short on time.
If you like making your own broth or stock, freezing or canning it is also a smart way to save time and money. Plus, you have total control over how much sodium goes in the pot.
If you’ve never canned, it is much safer today with modern pressure cookers. (See this blog on CHEFSMix for the beginning of our series on canning.) However, if you prefer frozen foods, get a set of good freezer containers or bowls for your soup creations. The supplies you need are a small investment, considering what you’ll save in the long run.
Soups that freeze best include those with beans and peas, chicken and meat. Though, most vegetables will freeze well and not turn to mush when they thaw. Just make sure you don’t overcook them, since they’ll cook some a second time when you reheat the soup.
Vegetables that don’t retain their shape or taste well after being frozen include potatoes, onions, green peppers, and garlic. Pureed soups freeze and reheat quite well, so blend a batch of split pea or squash soup by using your counter-top or stick blender.
If your freezer is short on space, consider creating a “soup concentrate” and add the extra water later when you’re ready to use the broth or soup.
To thaw your soup, start the process in the microwave. Once the soup has released from the container, transfer it to a microwave-safe bowl and thaw the rest of the way (this will save microwave wear and tear on your freezer containers). Then bump up the power, heat to serving temperature, and ladle into your favorite soup bowls. Add croutons and enjoy.
There isn’t a quicker meal than something out of your freezer. By making your own soups, you’ll save money, too, when you use extra garden produce or take advantage of a good sale at the grocery store. Invest an afternoon now and reap the benefits of stress-free meals for months to come.
2 pounds chicken wings, necks, backs, or other parts (raw parts or roasted carcasses)
4 smallish carrots, rinsed and roughly chopped
1 leek, rinsed and roughly chopped
1 smallish onion, peeled or unpeeled, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 fresh bay leaf (optional)
1 sprig fresh thyme
Place all of the ingredients in your slow cooker, add enough cold water to cover, and cook on low for at least 12 hours or overnight. You may need to skim the surface toward the beginning of cooking.
Strain and let cool completely. Freeze in 1- to 2-cup portions.
1 can beef
4 cans of water or beef broth
2 stalks of celery, diced
2 carrots, sliced
1 onion, diced
2 potatoes, diced
1/2 cup quick cooking barley
1 tablespoon parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
Mix all ingredients in a large pot. Bring to a boil and cook over low heat for about 30 minutes.
When potatoes are tender, soup is done.
1 poundground beef
2 onions, minced
1/2 green pepper, chopped
1 small can diced tomatoes
1 small can kidney beans and liquid
2 teaspoons salt
1 – 2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
In a skillet, brown ground beef, minced onions, and chopped green pepper.
Drain browned mixture and transfer to soup pot.
Add remaining ingredients. Simmer for about 45 minutes to an hour or until thick and bubbly.
1 1/2 cups dry lentils
2 carrots, sliced
2 potatoes, diced
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 quart tomato juice
1 garlic clove, minced
1 medium onion, minced
2 stalks celery, with tops, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon oregano
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 to 4 cups water
Soak lentils overnight.
Mix all ingredients in slow cooker. Cover and cook on low 10 hours. Serve.