We had a marvelous soup the other night, based on a friend’s recipe for sausage-potato-kale soup. Ours utilized some of the kale we dehydrated last year (boy, has that stuff hung on), some potatoes freshly dug from our garden and some sausage bought months ago at a deep discount. (I love my freezer.)
It was supposed to have been kielbasa but spicy Cajun links were what we had. I sliced two links into coins and sauteed them until slightly crisp in a cast-iron skillet in which onions had already caramelized. Decided that a finely diced carrot wouldn’t hurt a bit, either.
The base was the real star, however — a rich homemade stock the likes of which we will never taste again. No two of our stocks ever taste exactly the same. That’s because the contents of the boiling bag vary every time.
The boiling bag is a bag in the freezer that receives vegetable scraps, bones and sometimes even bits of fruit. This batch had several apple cores and there was a slight sweetness under the richness of the other ingredients — which this time included beet and turnip greens and stems, onion skins, carrot tops, and both pork and chicken bones. Put it all in the slow cooker overnight and you wake up to a lovely, intriguing aroma.
Boy, was that soup delicious. It’s all that DF and I had for dinner. No bread, no salad — just soup.
Giving scraps one more chance at usefulness
We amused ourselves by trying to figure out how much that meal cost, since the ingredients were all at hand. Sure, we paid for the seed potatoes and at some point had paid for the beet and turnip seeds (they were a few years old but still sprouted). The Cajun sausage had been on sale and I used only two of the approximately 14 links in the package.
And the stock? I consider it free, given that (a) it was made of things that would have otherwise have been tossed and (b) eight hour of slow-cooker use on the “low” setting barely registers on our monthly electric bill.
So let’s just say that it was a darned cheap supper — one among many, since every time the boiling bag fills up we make stock and freeze it. Thus all we have to do is grab some stock and add whatever vegetables and/or meat and/or starch we have on hand.
I’d urge you to start a boiling bag of your own. Throw in whatever you’ve pared off the veggies, and toss in those gnawed-upon chicken drumsticks or pork-chop bones. As noted, I’ve taken to throwing in apple cores because why not?
When you’ve got a full bag, throw in some salt and boil for at least an hour. We like the slow cooker because it uses practically no energy and there’s no need to worry about it boiling dry.
Every soup we’ve ever made has been different, as noted, but they have two things in common: They’re incredibly cheap and quite delicious. DF says our meals taste great because they’re prepared and shared with love. Agreed. But a good stock helps, too.