Heritage Soups

January was my month for experimenting with some of my soup recipes.
  I’ve been working to decrease the amount of soup that I make at a time because I am an empty nester who isn’t crazy about leftovers.  I’ve also been trying to identify the probable origins of some of my recipes that have come through the family.  My recipes are mine.  While they started with someone else, I have adjusted them over the years and made them more original to my family’s tastes. 

I’m a food historian by hobby.  I’ve spent years researching the foodways of many cultures.  As I detailed in my introduction to my 2024 food project “Timelines”, I’m focusing on recipes and techniques that come to me through the Appalachians.

We’ll begin my 2024 journey by talking about soup.  From the time that cave dwellers who had just discovered fire cooked broth in an animal hide bag by dropping stones heated in the fire into the broth … to this time of the instant pot … soup has been a part of every food culture.  Soup certainly evolved as cooking vessels improved, but it has also evolved as agriculture has progressed. 
Early soups may have only held broth and natural herbs for flavor.  Today, I couldn’t begin to make a list of the things available to me to create delicious soups.  Just think of the packaged flavorings, noodles and pastas, fresh, dried and frozen vegetables, dried herbs and so much more. 

The Bible speaks of soup, called pottage.  The recipe books written in medieval times listed soops. The first cookbook printed in America in 1742 included recipes for soup.  By the mid-1800s, scores of soup recipes were included in cookbooks, even though many of them were copied from one book to another.

As I studied the history of soups and the agriculture in my ancestral homes of Scotland, Ireland and Germany … I found many similarities.  All three food cultures started with broth, then came bread dunkers.  This is likely where the word ‘sop’ comes from!  You’ll find creamy potato soups and mixed vegetable soups in the earliest of recipes. 

My favorite similarity is kale.  In 1984, I owned a restaurant, and we bought cases of kale to use to line the salad bar.  Today, 40 years later I buy kale to eat on a regular basis.  I add it to soup, just like my ancestors did.  History tells us that when they only had broth, they often added kale to the soup pot to add nutrients, texture and to make it more filling.

Winter squash makes a wonderful creamy soup.  We learned as children that the Native Americans who greeted our colonial settlers taught them how to grow squash, beans and corn.  I suppose they taught them how to cook them, too.  I’ve always thought that our colonists should have known how to prepare those foods because they weren’t just grown in America!  Squash dates to the first century in the historic Mesopotamia region.  It was carried all over the world by explorers.

Here are a few of my small batch soups.  I’ve used some shortcuts and I encourage you to do the same.  Use my recipes but make them your own.  Switch ingredients and experiment with flavors.  Approach your cooking not as a science, but as an artform.  Create a masterpiece!

Winter Vegetable Soup

Soup preparation depends upon the seasonal produce available.  In the depth of cold weather, we are blessed with winter root vegetables. I can buy them at the indoor farmers market, and at my house, turnips top the list.  Root vegetables are shelf stable.  Store them in a cool, dry place.

Chop 2 large turnips, 1 carrot, 1 medium potato, ½ an onion and 1 stalk of celery. 
You can peel the turnips, carrot and potato, but you don’t have to.

In a Tablespoon of garlic infused olive oil, sauté the onion and celery
 until they begin to soften.

Add the other root vegetables, 1 cup of corn kernels and any leftover vegetable you have on hand ... and 4 cups of vegetable stock.

Bring the soup to a boil, then turn it down to a simmer.

Add a bay leaf and a sprig of rosemary.

Cover the pot and simmer until the vegetables are done.

Stir in 2 Tablespoons of tomato paste, several grinds of whole 
peppercorns and a dash of salt (more if you prefer).

This recipe makes about 8 cups of soup. It is good served with warm bread and butter.


Cream of Broccoli and Potato Soup

The ingredients in this soup can be adjusted, but you’ll need 4 cups of vegetables in total.  I like more potatoes than broccoli, but this recipe calls for equal parts!  I cream the soup with Half and Half, but whole milk, cream or evaporated milk can certainly be used.


To begin the foundation of flavor for this soup, add ½ cup of shredded carrot, onion and celery to a couple tablespoons of olive oil and sauté until the vegetables begin softening.

Add 2 cups of cubed potato and 2 cups of broccoli flowerets and cook them for a few minutes, stirring often. This gives these vegetables a head start on cooking.

Add 3 cups of chicken broth to the soup and simmer it until all the vegetables are done.

Add 1 to 2 cups of Half and Half and let the soup continue to simmer. The starch from the potatoes should thicken the soup, but if it isn’t thick enough, add instant potato flakes a 

Tablespoon at a time until you get the consistency you like.

When the soup is finished, stir in a cup of crumbled cheese. Use cheddar if you like it best, but any cheese works.

Prepared chicken broth usually has enough salt and pepper in it for my taste but add more if you like or just finish the soup with grinds of whole peppercorns.


Acorn Squash and Tomato Soup

I have winter squash sitting on the counter most of the winter.  I use them in lots of ways, but I first made a version of this soup years ago when I hosted an autumn luncheon for my girlfriends.  Tt was warm enough to have the event on the back deck.  That time I made all the ingredients from scratch.  Now I use a short cut.

There are lots of ways to prepare winter squash.  I prefer acorn for this recipe, but it is equally good using a butternut.  The fastest way to prepare the squash is to simply poke a few holes through the skin and microwave it.  Cook time depends upon the size of the squash, but ten minutes usually works.  Cut the squash in half and let it cool.  Remove the seeds and any stringy membrane.  Scoop out the flesh and mash it to use in the soup.

The shortcut for this soup is to simply begin with a can of Campbells Tomato Bisque.  Prepare it per the instructions on the can.  Add the mashed squash and ½ teaspoon of black pepper and a teaspoon of onion powder. Stir in a handful of chopped kale and bring to a simmer. Add 1 cup of Half and Half.


Leek and Potato Soup


I found the most beautiful small leeks at the grocery store the other day, so I bought several.  The first thing I made was this delicious soup.

Use two medium to large leeks (or three small ones).

Wash them well and slice them. Reserve the green tops and use the white part for this soup.

· Begin to sauté the leeks in 4 Tablespoons of butter.

· Peel and chop 2 large white potatoes. Add them to the leeks. Sauté gently until the potatoes get a head start on softening.

· Add ½ teaspoon of salt and another ½ teaspoon of black pepper.

· Add 4 cups of chicken or vegetable broth and simmer until the vegetables are soft.

· Use an immersion blender and cream the soup. I like to leave a few chunks in mine,

· Add 1 cup of Half and Half and continue to heat through.

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