We’re in a subzero cold snap that should last at least a few more days. The temperature was eight below when I got up and managed to make it only four degrees above the zero-mark before shivering its way back down the thermometer.
But I don’t care (much), because the house smells so good.
After DF had his lunch he filled the five-quart West Bend slow cooker with the contents of the boiling bag, some vegetable cooking water from the freezer and the water left from last night’s boiled potatoes.
(That last included little bits of spud because I got distracted and let them boil perhaps a bit too long.)
This time around the boiling bag contained carrot tops, apple cores, the tough ends of romaine leaves, onion skins, potato peelings and a handful of very small, very green tomatoes from the greenhouse project. Although all of the bigger tomatoes and some of the smaller ones eventually turned red after we brought them indoors, the little ones were stubbornly bright-green and beginning to soften. Thus we sacrificed them to the soup and are already dreaming of next spring.
Weather like this makes us dream of spring anyway. But the smell of soup makings really chases the chill.
I say “soup makings” because this batch is still far from becoming potage. When DF gets home from work he’ll unplug the slow cooker and set it outside to cool. (That won’t take long. It’s one below zero right now, at 5:30 p.m.) Then he’ll drain out the solids and place the bones in the trash and the veggies in the container to go out to the compost bin.
The broth will go back outdoors, so that any fat will rise to the surface and firm up. By “firm up,” of course, I mean “freeze.” Easier to pry it off that way.
A culinary caress
Soup won’t be tonight’s dinner; we’re having leftovers. In fact, the stock will probably go into the freezer. (The indoor one, not the outdoor one.)
Some night in the near future when neither of us wants to cook we’ll pull out the broth and add our home-grown and -preserved vegetables (potatoes, turnips, dehydrated greens and slivers of red cabbage) plus whatever herbs and spices look good. Maybe I’ll also cook a small pot of frugal quinoa, i.e., the kind I get for free with Amazon gift cards from the Swagbucks reward program. (The same bag costs $10.29 in Anchorage – and it’s a small bag.)
We’ll set out some mustard vinegar and Tabasco, to be added to each diner’s taste, and go back to the freezer for some of the rolls I recently baked. While the soup is cooking the kitchen will smell wonderful a second time, and the resulting meal will delight us far beyond its actual capacity to nourish. Like all our meals, it will be food that’s “prepared and shared with love,” as DF puts it.
I once interviewed a single mom who told me that her slow cooker and bread machine saved her butt, and her budget. She’d put something in each appliance and set the timers right before she raced out the door in the morning. When she and her two kids came home to a dark house on a cold night, the smells of fresh bread and crockpot-whatever greeted them like a hug. I’ve been waiting for you. Dinner’s ready!
Not having to charge into cooking made her happy. Her children never noticed that the food they were eating was pretty plain fare because (a) it smelled so good, (b) they were really hungry and (c) fresh bread.
The process of making stock from the boiling bag provides the same culinary caress. I’ve been working diligently all day in a house that’s quiet and, truth be told, a bit lonely. But the ghostly fragrance of Soup That’s Yet To Come reminds me that DF is always thinking ahead, and that one night soon we’ll share bread and broth.
If winter is starting to get you down I suggest firing up the crockpot. If it doesn’t have a timer, buy one and plug it in. Nothing like coming home to a place that smells like supper.