Monday, August 26, 2013

Making soup isn't easy if you don't know how

Ham bone soup
Delicious ham bone soup
The temperature has climbed to well above 90ยบ but it is cool in the house, thanks to the air conditioner. My husband is always hot; I am always cold. He continuously lowers the thermostat while I raise it. So instead of playing with the thermostat today, I decided to make soup. That is an activity that always reminds me of my former neighbor LaVerne.

I never knew how to make soup. That may sound strange, but I really never was taught to cook. When I was a young married, there was no Internet. There wasn't even a Food Network back then. I tried several times over the years, but the result wasn't very good. My soup never had any flavor. I couldn't even make decent chicken soup. I had no idea what I was doing wrong.

I will always be grateful to LaVerne Johnson, the lady who lived next door. She and her husband Merrill were an elderly couple that moved to the Midwest to be near their daughter. They were from Tyler, TX. She was an excellent cook, in an old fashioned, traditional way.

One day she and I were talking. She suggested that the next time I made a large piece of meat with a bone in it, to give her a call. It just so happened that I made a ham. I didn't even know you could make soup out of a ham. She didn't have a recipe, but I added lots of ingredients. I can't recall what exactly was in it because that was probably nearly 40 years ago. I know there was corn in it, as well as tomatoes. And I know that it turned out fabulous. From that moment on, I could make soup.

I believe my problem was two-fold. I never really brought the heat high enough for a proper simmer. Also, I didn't use enough salt or other spices. I never realized that those little bottles in my cabinet weren't there just for appearances. I was to use them to season our food.

Last week I made a ham, which we have much to infrequently around here, since it is just the two of us. That is a lot of meat. When I was a little girl, I often thought of the perfect lunch as a deli ham sandwich on white bread with potato chips on top. I'm older and much wiser now. I try not to eat white bread, because it is so over-processed. I don't eat chips because they have too much salt and other harmful additives. I've even heard horror stories about deli meat. Today I prefer homemade chips made from vegetable I slice myself and cook in the oven--and not necessarily potatoes. Instead of buying deli meat, I opted for the ham I could cook and slice myself.

I cut as much as I could off the bone and put the thing into a soup pot. I chopped up some onions, carrots, and celery and turned it into soup stock. Today I used the quick method to soak some navy beans. Then I went back to the chopping block where I took care of more onions, celery, and carrots. I heated a little oil in the pot and cooked the veges until they were soft. Then I added the soup stock, and the navy beans. I checked out the pantry to see what was in there. Lo and behold I found a can of creamed corn that had been there a while because we probably won't eat. We bought it by mistake thinking it was whole kernel corn. So I dumped it into the pot. I also added a can of diced tomatoes, as well as a couple of potatoes I cut into small pieces. It is simmering on the stove right now. I'll let y'all know how it turns out.

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