Dark Days: All-local soup

December 7, 2009(updated on January 24, 2023)

veggie composite

One of the things that tipped me off to the fact that Scott was the right man for me was when I discovered his nearly endless capacity for consuming leftovers (a couple of weeks ago, when I was down with a cold and wasn’t up for cooking, he ate from the pot of chili I’d made over the weekend for five nights in a row). I know many an individual who can’t stomach the same item two nights in a row and so big braises, soups and stews are out in their households, as it’s nearly impossible to make those items on a scale small enough to satisfy the one-night rule.

I grew up eating leftovers and so never knew that there was another option (my mother was a big fan of making one cooking session last for at least two nights). When I moved out on my own, I’d often make a large-ish batch of a grain salad or bean soup, to eat for at least one meal a day, all week long. It made life easier and kept food costs controlled (I found that a pint jar of soup with an apple or a few Ak-mak crackers makes the perfect workday lunch).

sauting veggies

During the cooler months, I have one soup that I make nearly every other week. Around here we call it ground beef soup, although the vegetables are the stars, not the meat. It can be made in huge quantities (tonight, I filled my seven quart pot), keeps well and Scott and I both happily eats it meal after meal after meal. And this time of the year, all the ingredients are available locally.

The vegetables shift a little depending on what’s in the kitchen, but I always include onions (Fair Food), celery (a chinese variety, from the farmers market), carrots (Fair Food), potatoes (from the farmers market several weeks ago) and tomatoes (home canned in September). In addition, tonight I also used two tiny cabbages (shredded) and a black turnip (both of which were part of my final CSA box), a celeriac bulb (Fair Food), some rosemary from a friend’s community garden plot and a few cloves of garlic (from Seattle, purchased as an edible souvenir and hand-carried home when I was there in August).

nearly finished soup

To make this soup, I chop the vegetables (starting with the onions and then moving through the celery, carrots, celeriac, turnip and cabbage) into approximately equal sized cubes, adding them to the pot to saute in a bit of olive oil. Then I add the tomatoes (tonight I used one quart and one pint because I was making such a huge batch), some water (enough to entirely cover the veggies) and the potatoes. Then the rosemary and garlic. Lid on and let it simmer (when I’m not concerned with keeping it entirely local, I will also add some frozen peas at this point. Tonight, in the interest of adhering to the challenge of Dark Days, I skipped them) until the potatoes are tender.

At this point, I have a pot of deeply flavored, totally vegan soup (don’t forget to add salt and pepper to taste prior to serving). In the past, I’ve made this for parties and stopped right here so that all guests can eat. In that case, I’ll create a garnish bar that will include some cheese, browned ground beef or sausage, croutons and toasted nuts (for the vegans who still need protein). However, when I’m making it for the two of us, I brown the ground beef (grass fed from Meadow Run Farms) in a skillet and use a slotted spoon to transfer it from the skillet to the soup pot (to minimize grease transfer). It’s a great way to make a pound of meat stretch to cover nearly a week of meals.

One of the most satisfying things about this soup? Whenever I make it, Scott always turns to me once his bowl is empty, smiles and says, “Mmm! Such delicious soup!”

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9 thoughts on "Dark Days: All-local soup"

  • It does look delicious. When I make a soup like that, I often start by browning the meat (whatever I’m using), rendering the fat and removing and reserving the browned meat, and then I cook the veg in the rendered beef/pork/chicken fat. At the end, I’ll stir the brown meat back in. Your way is probably healthier!

  • Joy, I have done it that way too, but for some reason this way always feels easier to me (despite the fact that it dirties a second cooking vessel). Oddly enough, the beef I used tonight was really, really lean, so it hardly cooked out any fat. Typically the Meadow Run beef has a nice balance of fat to lean.

  • That soup looks fantastic! I like that making soup is a method, not a recipe. Mmmm… soup for dinner, accompanied by crusty bread.

  • Mmm sounds good. I like to make big batches of soups and stews too. I freeze 1/2 so that I don’t get too tired of it and can eat it later when I don’t feel like cooking. I can mix and match soups as I like.

  • I’m lucky the same way. When I make a batch of soup, I portion it individually for the freezer the first night. After a few soup making sessions, we can have different “leftovers” every day. It also has the advantage that I don’t need to worry about what we want to eat, only what I want to cook.

  • This looks delish! I’ve been searching through various websites to figure out how to can vegetable soup. It looks like I will need a pressure canner – is that right?
    Can I not just use the water bath method? The lid will still seal if I do…
    Any help or information would be greatly appreciated!!

    Thank you,

    1. Carine, you absolutely cannot just water bath can vegetable soup. It’s a low acid food and so much be pressure canned. True, you’d get a seal if you water bathed it, but because of the low acid state, if any botulism spores were present in your jar, they could easily develop into a full-blown case of botulism. It takes a temperature of 240 degrees to kill those spores, which a pressure canner can achieve.

      I recommend you check out this post over on Doris and Jilly Cook. She’s an experienced pressure canner and her instructions will not lead you astray. http://dorisandjillycook.com/2010/01/11/canning-beef-stock-and-vegetable-soup/