To make nutritious, healthful and palatable soup, with flavors properly commingled, is an art which requires study and practice, but it is surprising from what a scant allotment of material a delicate and appetizing dish may be produced.. The best base for soup is lean uncooked meat, a pound of meat to a quart of water, to which may be added chicken, turkey, beef, or mutton bones well broken up; a mixture of beef, mutton and veal, with a bit of ham bone, all cut fine, makes a higher flavored soup than any single meat; the legs of all meats are rich in gelatine, an important constituent of soup. For white stock use veal or fowls instead of beef.
Soups, which make the principal part of a meal, should be richer than those which simply precede a heavier course of meats, etc.
When remnants of cooked meats are used, chop fine, crush the bones, add a ham bone or bit of ham or salt pork (two or three cubic inches) and all ends of roasts and fatty parts, and the brown fat of the roast; make the day previous to use; strain, set away over night, skim off the fat (which clarify and save for drippings), and it is ready to heat and serve.
When soup is desired for a first course, daily, a soup-kettle should be especially provided, with a faucet to draw off the clear soup to be seasoned for each day; and all the bones and bits of meat left after dinner can be thrown into the kettle, also bits of vegetables and bread, and the gravies that are left from roast meats and cutlets. In this way there will be nothing lost, and the soups can be varied by seasonings and thickenings of different kinds. Every two or three days, however, the contents of the kettle should be turned out, after all the liquid has been drawn off, and the kettle washed clean and scalded, for if this is not attended to, the soups will soon lose their piquant flavor and become stale.
In using fresh meat throw the pieces as cut into the required quantity of cold water and let stand until the juices of the meat begin to color it, then put on to boil; in this way the juices of the meat are more readily drawn out. The soup is done when the meat is juiceless.
The best herbs are sage, thyme, sweet marjoram, tarragon, mint, sweet basil, parsley, bay-leaves, cloves, mace, celery-seed and onions. Plant the seed of any of the seven first-mentioned in little boxes on the window sill, or in a sunny spot in the yard. Gather and dry them as follows: parsley and tarragon should be dried in June and July, just before flowering; mint in June and July; thyme, marjoram and savory in July and August; basil and sage in August and September; all herbs should be gathered in the sunshine, and dried by artificial heat; their flavor is best preserved by keeping them in air-tight tin cans, or in tightly-corked glass bottles.
Seasonings for soups may be varied to suit tastes. The simplest may have only pepper and salt, while the richest may have a little of every savor, so delicately blended that no one is conspicuous. The best seasoning is that which is made up of the smallest quantity from each of many spices. No measure can be given, because the good soup-maker must be a skillful taster. There must be a flavor of salt; that is, the water must not be insipid (less is needed if bits of salt meat are used), there must be a warm tone from the pepper, but not the taste of pepper; in short, the spicing should be delicate rather than profuse. Those who like rank flavors may add them to suit their coarse and uneducated palates. For brown soups the dark spices may be used; for white, mace, aromatic seeds, cream and curry. Many herbs, either fresh or dried, are used as seasoning, and all the choice catsups and sauces.
Rice, sago, pearled barley, vermicelli, macaroni, etc., are desirable additions to meat soups. The first three are used in the proportion of half a tea-cup to three quarts of soup; wash and soak. Rice requires half to three-quarters of an hour, boiling in the soup; sago cooks in fifteen minutes; barley should be soaked over night, or for several hours; boil by itself in a little water till tender; add 20 to the soup just before serving. Vermicelli and macaroni should be broken up small, and washed thoroughly; boil in the soup half an hour.
If a soup is wanted without any addition of vegetables, but thickened, arrow-root or corn starch is used in the proportion of two round tea-spoons of the latter and two scant tea-spoons of the former to a quart of soup. Mix with a little water until smooth, and add when the soup is nearly done. Wheat flour is also used for thickening, but it requires three round table-spoons to the quart. If not thick enough to suit the taste more may be added. Browned flour does not thicken, the starchy property having been removed in the browning process.
Thickened soups require more seasoning than thin soups; if wanted very clear and delicate, strain through a hair sieve.
Always use cold water in making all soups; skim well, especially during the first hour. There is great necessity for thorough skimming, and to help the scum rise, pour in a little cold water now and then, and as the soup reaches the boiling point, skim it off. Use salt at first sparingly, and season with salt and pepper; allow one quart soup to three or four persons.
For a quick soup, crush the bone and cut the meat rather fine; when done, strain and serve. Every kitchen should be provided with a soup-kettle (which has a double bottom), or a large iron pot with a tight-fitting tin cover with a hole size of a large darning-needle in it at one side of the handle. Keep kettle covered closely, so that the flavor may not be lost, and simmer slowly, so that the quantity may not be much reduced by evaporation, but if it has boiled away (which may be the case when the meat is to be used for the table), pour in as much hot water as is needed, and add vegetables, noodles, or any thickening desired. Vegetables should be added just long enough before soup is done to allow them to be thoroughly cooked. An excellent soup for a small family may be made from the bones and trimmings cut from a steak before broiling. The bones from a rib roast, which are generally cut out and thrown away by the butcher, after weighing, should always be ordered sent with roast and used for soup.
For coloring and flavoring soups, use caramel, browned flour.
onions fried brown, meat with cloves in it, or browned with butter. Poached eggs are an excellent addition to some soups. They should be added just before serving, one for each person. They may be poached in water or dropped into the boiling soup, or two or three eggs, well-beaten and added just before pouring in tureen, make a nice thickening. Cayenne pepper or a bit of red pepper pod, Worcestershire, Halford, or Chili sauce, and catsups, are considered by many an improvement to soup, but must be cautiously used. Forcemeat balls, made of the meat boiled for the soup, are also used.