My favorite things about fall:
1. Scarves — I love snuggling my neck in a cozy, colorful scarf.
2. Halloween — Though I love the idea of homemade costumes, there just wasn’t time for it this year. Princess Sofia and Spiderman came from Target.
3. Soup — I love soup weather. Done right, soup is cheap and easy — and there’s almost always leftovers. Soup is often a one-dish slow cooker meal, and there’s nothing better than coming home to dinner already made and easy cleanup.
Most of the soups we make are “leftover” soups. We had ham and kidney bean soup earlier this week, because we had a ham bone in the freezer and leftovers from a bag of dried beans I’d hydrated for a meal the week before. I added some carrots, celery and onion and it made a tasty meal after a chilly day.
At the base of any soup is some kind of stock — vegetable, beef, chicken or various kinds of seafood and fish stock. I use chicken stock for most of my non-beef based soups, and as you can imagine, it’s stock I make at home.
Making your own stock is cheap, easy and a great way to get the most out of any chicken-based meal you serve. I most often make a large batch (4-5 pints) from the leftovers of a whole roasted chicken. But stock can be made from smaller amounts of bones too, or save them in an airtight container in the freezer until you have enough for a large batch.
To make stock, I put the carcass with leftover meat from a whole roasted chicken in my slow cooker with 8-10 cups of water, a couple stalks of roughly chopped celery, a few carrots, a chopped onion and salt. Various herbs and spices are added as I see fit — each batch I make is a little different. But they all have one thing in common: My homemade stock tastes better than any canned variation.
I let the slow cooker go all day long, or sometimes I’ll set it all up directly after our chicken supper, and let it cook overnight. Once the stock has cooked for several hours (make sure the water level doesn’t decrease too much), let it cool then strain out the bones and vegetables. Transfer the cooled liquid to air-tight containers to freeze. You can fit about 8 cups in a gallon freezer bag. Lay it flat to freeze — it can then be stored upright once frozen. Discard the bones and vegetables.
If you have a pressure canner, you can safely make chicken broth shelf stable, which I did with my last batch. I like keeping the smaller amounts in liquid form, but still keep quarts or gallons in the freezer to use in soups. All you have to do is loosen the frozen stock from the container by letting it soak for a couple minutes in some hot water, then dump the whole icy chunk in the pan with the veggies and turn on the heat. The ice will melt and cook the veggies.
Features Editor Deirdre Long: 256-294-4152. On Twitter @star_features.