Classification of Soups

At the beginning of last year a regular reader requested some soup recipes and we… didn’t exactly respond satisfactorily.  So, as the weather is currently fairly horrible and many of us are a bit skint after the holidays, it’s definitely time to honour this. I’ll post a soup recipe every week in January but first some fundamentals, from the Jewish Cookery  Book by Florence Greenberg (first published in 1947):

Classification of Soups
Soups can be divided into four classes.

1. Clear Soup or Consomme
Clarified meat stock, garnished according to fancy.

2. Purees
The solid material is rubbed through a sieve, reheated with the liquor, and a little flour or cornflour added.

3. Thickened Soups
Made of meat, fish, or vegetable stock and thickened with some cereal, such as flour, cornflour or arrowroot, or, in the case of fish or vegetable stock, a liaison of eggs and milk.

4. Broths
These contain meat, vegetables, and cereals, but no additional thickening. They can be garnished with vegetables, rice, barley, etc.

General Directions for Making Stock
Every housewife who wants to serve economical and savoury meals should never be without some kind of stock, which forms the basis of all soups, good stews, sauces and gravies.  The chief object in making stock is to draw into the water the goodness from the material employed in making it.

Except when a clear brown soup is required it is not necessary to use fresh meat.  There will generally be sufficient trimmings of meat and bones, both cooked and uncooked that can be used for this purpose.  The water in which mutton or brisket has been boiled, the bones from a rolled rib of beef, poultry carcasses, etc., will make excellent soup stock.

Any ordinary saucepan can be used for a stockpot, provided it is large enough, but it is essential that it should have a tightly fitting lid.

So many soups are made by adding different ingredients to a basic soup stock, that it is worth while to make a large quantity at a time, even for a small family.

When sufficiently cooked, strain the stocks through a colander and leave in a cool place, if possible overnight.  The fat will then have formed a firm cake on top and can easily be removed.  The fat should be clarified and used in place of dripping. [There is a method for this earlier on in the book? Are you interested in reading it? I will post if so!]

The stock will keep for several days but should be reboiled daily in hot weather.  (In winter every second day will do.)  Store uncovered in the coolest part of the larder. [Obviously modern refrigeration renders this advice unnecessary.]

To clear soup stock
Remove all fat from the stock and turn it into a saucepan.  For every quart add the slightly beaten white of an egg and the shell broken in small pieces.  Whisk over a moderate heat until boiling, boil for two minutes, then cover and simmer very gently for 20 minutes. Skim, and strain through a muslin.

I hope this was useful – do you have any tips for increased deliciousness of stock?  Let us know in the comments!

Tomorrow: Pumpkin Soup by Jane Grigson

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4 responses to “Classification of Soups

  1. This was fascinating. I would very much like to hear the other info about the clarifying of fat too, but then again I am obsessed with making stock. I have a pheasant carcass in the freezer awaiting this treatment…

  2. Pheasant stock? Wow, that sounds amazing.

    Your wish is my command – fat clarification information will be posted later this week.

  3. My favourite ancient cookbook starts every chapter with a heartwarming tale of how Mairead/Kathleen/Brid/Stasia caught herself a good man by dint of her fine Irish cooking. In the case of soup, it is Brigid, catching Tom, in her kitchen, with a mutton broth. It ends;

    And it all goes to prove that, although the smell of French scent may attract a man, the smell of good, honest broth will anchor him for ever.

  4. If you don’t fancy making stock – and feel that cubes are cheating – you can save the water from steaming or boiling some vegetables. Potatoes, peas and beans are good and not too strong (unlike brassicas, cabbage/sprouts etc) so will blend with other flavours. Also, rice-water is slightly thickened. Even in the fridge, stock/veg-water can go off after a few days, but freezes well.