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Thursday, January 6, 2011

How Can I Make Garden Fresh Soup in the Wintertime?

Welcome the kitchen readers!

In honor of soup week over at the kitchn and, well, because they mentioned me on their site today which made me feel sort of famous, I thought the least I could do is write a soup post.

Every week for the past month I've made a pot of soup on Sunday, stored it in the fridge in Ball canning jars then brought it to work everyday for lunch.  In past years I run through the pizza, marinara and salsa fairly quickly then watch the empty canning jars sit around collecting dust until late summer when I'm ready to put away more tomato based products.

I've made some amazing soups lately including my two favorites, one with fennel, escarole and delicious red peppers and the other with greens and black-eyed peas but it's driving me crazy because nearly everything I've used in my soups can be grown easily in the garden.  But, it's wintertime in Chicago now so the fresh produce I'm using in my soup is probably being shipped from lord knows where.

It's been around 10 degrees in Chicago this week.  Soup gives me a heaping dose of veggies and warms me up.  But Chicago summers it's hot.  When it's 100 degrees outside and my vegetable garden is producing massive amounts of garden fresh soup goodness, hot soup is the last thing I want.  I want cold crisp salads.   Every day.  And I'm still having withdrawals for them long after my salad crops are finished.

I ought to be able to have it both ways.  My cool fresh garden salads in the summer and garden fresh soup in the winter.

The two options I thought of were freezing the fresh veggies or making the soup in the summer with veggies straight from the garden, then canning the soup to use for the winter.  But can you even freeze things like escarole and swiss chard?  Is it possible to can the soup using the standard hot water bath? And if you can, will it taste awful at eating time?

If you have found a way to eat soup in the winter made from ingredients straight from your garden, I need to hear from you!


  1. I haven't had much experience at canning soup (yet -- I want to start doing that) mostly because I've always read that you need to use a pressure canner. I'd be interested to hear from anyone who has successfully used the hot water bath method as well.

    As far as freezing chard and escarole -- YES! I do it every year. They taste best if you blanch them for about 30 seconds, shock them in ice water, then let them drain well before packing them up for freezing. I'm still eating swiss chard last year's garden. You can do the same with kale.

    I love the idea of packing soup lunches in canning jars, btw. I may steal that one :-)

  2. You can NOT safely can soup with the waterbath method. Not acid enough. You would need to pressure can it.

    But you can make it and freeze it. I freeze mine in recycled quart deli and yogurt containers. Soups with dairy products should be made right up to the addition of dairy, then frozen, adding the dairy when you thaw it to eat. (Or the dairy "breaks" and makes the soup texture weird.) I make cram of broccoli and potato soup that way. You can freeze greens - they will get limp, but they also get limp in soup. I freeze a lot of broccoli and cauliflower when they have those giant heads for a dollar at all the farm stands at the end of summerm.

    Do you have those nice white plastic storage lids that Ball makes for canning jars? I use canning jars in my fridge and on my shelves all the time, and I LOVE those lids.

  3. Do you heat it in the jar in a microwave at work and just eat it from the jar? I love the idea of having lunches ready to go and having great home made soup is awesome.

  4. Colleen - I'm assuming I could do that with greens and spinach, too? I'm embarrassed to admit that I've never blanched. ha

    Anon - I do not have the plastic lids for the ball canning jars but I definitely want some! It is a pain keeping up with all the parts of the lids and it never fails that some get lost/thrown away. Thanks for the suggestions!

    MBT - don't get used to it! You know how I roll! ha ha

    GSS - Yes, I take the lid off, lay a paper towel over the top of the jar an microwave the jar. I pour the soup in the bowl but only because the jar is hot and therefore not that much fun to eat out of.

  5. Best thing I bought in 2010 was a food dehydrator. I haven't tried this yet, but I plan to try drying veggies, etc. and then just jarring them up together for later use as instant soup. I've dehydrated a lot of herbs, onions, eggplant (very good when ground in a coffee mill and added to tomato sauce), green bell peppers, carrots, etc. Some veggies do need blanching before dehydrating but it is so much easier than canning.