Wintertime = Soup and Dumpling Time

What person doesn’t love to have some nice hot soup on a nice cold day?  Soup is one of man’s (and woman’s) best fighters against cold weather and cold weather illnesses such as colds and the flu.

In the “old” days, soup was an all day affair for the cook, and it can still be.  Starting with soup bones, a turkey carcass or a stewing hen, you put the meat in water and cook with spices and vegetables until the meat falls off the bone.  De-boning the meat, you use the liquid – taking out any large pieces of cooked vegetables, you replace the meat in the liquid and add fresh vegetables and spices and cook until done.  Soup can be put on the back of the stove and be ready for meals at any time.  This soup can be thickened with flour for a stew or have rice, barley, noodles or dumplings added.

However, in this day and age, it does not need to take all day to make a soup.  When I worked at Historic Murphy’s Landing, my demonstration was fiber arts, not cooking, so I didn’t need to show guests HOW I made food; I just needed to have the house smelling great and have food for me and my interns and my family to eat.

There are several quick soups that are as hearty as the old-fashioned ones but only take a few minutes here and there to make.

And now that I am not demonstrating on a regular basis, I still use the “quick” way to make most soups.  I thought I’d share with you some of my favorite soups.  I am not a rice or barley soup lover but I do make some soups with those items, as my husband does love them.

The best “fillers” for soup, for me, are noodles or dumplings, especially egg dumplings.  There are biscuit dumplings, raised dumplings as well as egg dumplings.  Here is the recipe that my Auntie Pete taught me to make.  It’s a “hit and miss” recipe; I taught all my interns at Historic Murphy’s Landing as well as my granddaughters to do the “pinch of this, a pinch of that” type of cooking.

Old-Fashioned Egg Dumplings

Ingredients:

About a cup or two of flour, depending on the size of the soup and the number of people eating it
A pinch of salt per cup of flour
An egg per cup of flour
Water to mix

You want to stir your dough thoroughly so that the egg(s) mix well with the flour.  Add water to the consistency wanted.  Little water for a stiff dough, more water for a runny dough.

There are about three choices of dough for your dumplings.  Very stiff can be cut almost like spaetzle; very runny can be drizzled in almost like threads; medium can be placed in with a wet spoon as a “real” dumpling.  Put any choice in hot liquid and bring to a gentle boil for about twenty minutes.

Now to the soups:

Of course you can do the old-fashioned way and take all day about it.  But in these “modern” times, it’s easier to get almost the same results by doing it a quicker way.   This is only for meat soups, not cream soups. Begin with the soup stock by using canned broth – if you can find and afford it, use organic, otherwise, low-sodium.

For the meat, you can use anything handy or desired.  Use chicken broth for fowl, beef broth for red meats; pork can use either chicken or beef, your personal choice.  There is also vegetarian broth if you wish, for a good vegetable soup with no meat.

Cut the meat into bite sized pieces before you start.  You may either put the cut-up meat in the broth raw or braise it in oil or butter.

For vegetables, there are many choices (you really DO have a lot of choices for your soups, don’t you?).  Onions, as many as desired, raw or braised, cut to your specifications.  I like small pieces but not tiny.  But I do cut the onions into strips for an oriental soup.  Carrots?  Peas?  Corn?  Potatoes? For best flavor, use raw or frozen, but not canned.  Add other veggies as your family likes.  Garlic, small pieces or chopped very, very fine … it’s rather unsettling to me to bite into garlic – I like the flavor, not the consistency.  Peppers?  As mild or hot as you like.

If you are in a real hurry, you can used onion flakes, garlic flakes and dehydrated vegetables.

Cook on a high simmer until meat and vegetables are done.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  I like to put the seasonings in as the meat cooks so that they blend more, but I don’t put in as much salt as *I* would like, since others either don’t like soups that salty or are watching their salt content.

I will also, sometimes, take pre-cooked meat (leftover roast, leftover baked chicken, etc) and cook that – it needs a little bit of time to get the meat soft and filled with broth in the inside but it works for a fast meal and is very tasty.

Now is the time to put in the dumplings or noodles and cook for about twenty minutes until tender or done.  If you do barley or rice, you need to put them in earlier.  They go in about thirty minutes before finishing.

It’s all a matter of taste and practice.  Then you have a great meal … add some rolls, biscuits, crackers, sliced bread or any bread you desire to round out the meal.

My favorite soup at Historic Murphy’s Landing was very simple: a frozen boneless, skinless chicken breast, thawed and cut into eating sizes, placed in a pot with a can of chicken broth.  I then went out to the Herb Garden, pulled a few “Walking Onions,” a garlic bulb and plucked some thyme from the border.  I would clean and chop them up, bring all to a gentle simmer and cook until the chicken was done, then make the dumplings (or, as my youngest granddaughter used to call them, “lumplings”) and drop them into the pot.   Sometimes I would get some boneless, skinless chicken thighs and use them.  My interns would get a kick out of calling that “squirrel soup.”  I taught my granddaughters and my interns how to make the dumplings so that they were able to demonstrate some cooking skills to the guests.

After you have “conquered” your broth soups, it’s time to try the cream soups, which are easy, as well.  You can find recipes for all kinds of cream soup online or in cookbooks, but the base is practically the same for any one.

Usually the “cream” soup is just a very thin white gravy – usually made with chicken broth and flour and seasonings.  You can make cream of: broccoli, cauliflower, corn.  A “chowder” is simply a soup cooked in milk or cream and not thickened.  A “bisque” is usually made with seafood but can be vegetables that are pureed and cooked in milk or cream.

My favorite cream soup is Potato Soup.  It’s a simple, tummy-warming, heart-warming meal that has been in my family since I can remember.

Peel and cube the potatoes and cook them in a small amount of chicken broth until tender.  You can add your onions (if needed) at the same time to cook them until soft and tender.  No garlic is used in my soup, but you can put it in if you want.  I usually do about two medium potatoes per person.

I do not drain the potatoes but add milk to make the soup.  I have a favorite pot so I fill it up with the milk, knowing that it is the right amount for my family … this is something you will have to experiment with.

You can mash the potatoes to make the base thicker or you can add flour or you can leave it “thin.”

Since I have moved to Minnesota (over twenty years now!), I have adjusted the soup to my liking – it’s not soup like Mom used to make anymore!  As the soup is nearly done, I put very small egg dumplings in – trying to match the size of the potatoes – and cook them until done.  Then I add Velveeta cheese to the mix.  Then we have “Cheesy Potato Dumpling” soup.  The cheese is added to taste.  When my sister and brother-in-law come to supper, I usually have her test for cheese amounts.  Not that I really need her assistance (sorry, Candy) … it’s just a fun thing to do and gives her a bit of anticipation as to what is coming.

Soup … it’s what’s needed for cold days. Maybe I’d better cook up a batch for tonight!

About cpthegreat

Connie (aka Spinning Grandma) lives on Ash Lane Farm in southwest Minnesota. She is an expert on spinning, weaving and knitting and a former history interpreter.

4 thoughts on “Wintertime = Soup and Dumpling Time

  1. Put the smoked turkey carcass on the boil early this a.m. so that I’ll have good broth to start a potato soup later today. Our big South Carolina Christmas snowfall is melting which leaves a bit of a sloppy chill so soup will be perfect.

  2. Mmmmm…this AM, I boiled the ham bone and potatoes down, added lots of onions and celery, pepper and garlic, added some homemade cheese sauce, and Look Out! Overloaded Potato soup!