Cold Weather Cooking

Now that we have had our first snow, there is no denying that fall is in its closing days.  The nights are getting longer and the days are getting cooler.   This is the time I focus on soups, one of my favorite cold weather foods.  There are old family favorites,  tried and true, and then the new ones that scream “give me a try.”

Already I have made Minnesota Wild Rice soup.  Though a soup, it is in the style of the universal Minnesota Lutheran hot dish.    What this means is it is white, a cream based soup, with the wild and crazy  spices of  salt, pepper and onions!  Serve it with applesauce or Jello salad and I am transferred back,  at least in my mind, to Minnesota.

I am ready to cook a pot of  Navy Bean soup  based on the version my mom used to make, jazzed up with a little more seasonings than she used.  When I was a kid my mom would soak beans overnight, and then cook them all day with a ham bone the next day.   At this elevation using dried beans is a challenge that requires not only soaking, but a pressure cooker or they will never fully cook.   Because of this I actually cheat and use canned beans.   I have learned in this case that there is a difference in generic beans and name brand.  Name brand beans are not mushy or damaged, and if you are going to cook them for awhile with your ham bone, you want to start with firm beans.   Since today we are looking for more fiber and more diverse proteins  bean soup is a great option.

Another soup on my to make list to make soon is chicken noodle soup.  Of course my chicken noodle soup is not  only made with veggies, and thick noodles, but also with my own stewing hens.   One of  drags of a stewing hen is that they are older and their muscle tissue fully developed.  Today’s chicken is butchered in about 6-8 weeks and soaked in a water solution before being sent to your grocer’s shelf.   There is no such thing as a stewing hen in today’s commercial food industry, and no real instructions for preparing such. What all this means is that the whole concept of stewing hen requires me to get out my vintage Joy of Cooking, and let that guide me.   The result is a soup that is more intense, and chicken that never turns mushy.

I am keeping  an eye out for recipes in magazines, websites and on TV.  I am sure that there will be a couple of new soups and stews that I will have to try.   Maybe one or two will be a keeper the rest will likely be one time wonders.


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