Monday, January 17, 2011

The Soup Project: Prison Food and Soup Stock

I've been so excited about my "soup project," I tried to sell my family and friends on the idea. That is, until I asked my sister.

"Are you kidding me?" She'd said, shocked at my audacity. "Prisoners eat soup."

I laughed and suddenly remembered that when I visited Alcatraz in San Francisco last fall, I found this magazine in the gift shop.
First thing I did was check out the prison menus. It appears prisoners did indulge in regular meals that often included soup, but they had to eat in 20 minutes, and in solitary confinement though soup was served nearly every day, it was only in half rations.

Half rations? It's enough to deter my Cooking Assistant from the life of crime.

Good thing soup stock really has nothing to do with prison food. And stock enhances flavor so much for vegetarian soup, I can't just throw out recipes every week without covering the basics.

I don't use stock all the time, but it's not hard to make, and it does create layers of flavor, and if you use the same processed soup stock all the time, all your soups will have similar flavors and pretty soon every soup will be flat and boring. I'd rather add soup stock vegetables like carrots, celery and onions to soup rather than buying ready made stocks from a box or can.

Here are a few stock making tips:
  • Save vegetable scraps in plastic bags in the freezer, labeled, for easy stock making.
  • Produce can be slightly over-the-hill, but nothing moldy or bad should go into a soup stock
  • Roughly cut all the vegetables the same size--about 1-inch pieces. This brings out the flavor of the vegetables equally and strengthens stock flavor.
  • Always start with cold water. Add all ingredients, bring to a boil, and simmer for 35 to 40 minutes.
  • Strain the stock after it has finished cooking. Never let cooked stock sit because the sit may turn bitter, causing the soup to have a slightly off-taste.
Basic Soup Stock
This recipe is similar to one The Northwest Vegetarian Cookbook. You can use it for most soups, and vary the vegetables. Don't go crazy adding lots of onion skins because too many turn the stock bitter, and remember skins turn the stock a dark color. If you're making a light-colored soup like creamy cauliflower, you might want to leave onion skins out. You can stock taste richer by frying mushrooms and garlic in one tablespoon ghee or oil before adding the water and other vegetables. I sometimes roast extra vegetables to add to this basic recipe.

6 cups water
3 stalks celery, cut into pieces
2 carrots, sliced
1 yellow onion, with skin, sliced
Handful parsley
4 mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup lentils
1/4 teaspoon thyme
2 teaspoons basil
5 cloves garlic, sliced
6 to 8 peppercorns
Pinch of salt

Combine all ingredients in a large soup pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes. Strain, discard cooked vegetables, and cool stock. Use immediately or freeze in plastic containers (glass can break).

  • Add seasonal vegetables such as corn, squash, celeriac, parsley root, leeks, bell peppers, tomatoes, fennel, or pea pods
  • Use carrot tops, potato skins, corn cops, mushroom stems, and squash seeds. You can also add leftover cooked potatoes, but becareful some vegetables like cooked sweet potatoes can turn the stock cloudy
  • Vary herbs according to your taste
  • Add 1/4 cup white, brown, or red miso instead of salt

Tune in next Monday when I make a soup using hominy from Ayers Creek Farm in Gaston, Oregon.


Jenn@slim-shoppin said...

I've never made homemade stock before, but I should! I'm sure it will make all the difference.

I couldn't find how to contact you via e-mail, but could you e-mail me @ I'm working on a project that I was wondering if you could participate in by sharing a recipe from your site. I'll tell you all the details when you e-mail me. Thanks!

ddzeller said...

Hey Jen I'd love to but your email address doesn't work; my browser doesn't recognize it so my replies come back to me. I checked out your blog; it's very cool. Let me know the