Kitchen Hints and Tips - Soup, Stew, Chili and Gumbo

Line a soup bowl with plastic wrap, two pieces crossways, and fill the bowl with soup. Place in the freezer. When frozen, remove from bowl and wrap. When ready to eat soup, unwrap frozen soup. Put frozen soup right into the soup bowl, then microwave. This is wonderful for leftover soups.

Puree leftover meats, vegetables and gravies. Freeze and add to the stock the next time you make soup.

Freeze extra soup in empty, clean milk cartons. The rectangular shape stores easily in the freezer, and the cartons are easy to empty. Staple the top closed and tape it with freezer tape to prevent freezer burn.

Always start a meat stock in cold water to pull the most juices possible from the meat. If you start it in hot water, the meat seals itself and keeps the juices in.

When making meat-based stocks, always add a couple tablespoons of vinegar to the water. The vinegar makes the broth a little acid and causes some of the calcium in the bones to be released which makes the stock much more nourishing.

To keep refrigerated stock fresh and safe to use, take it out once a week, bring it to a full boil and boil for 3 to 5 minutes. Cool and return it to the refrigerator. This also incorporates the flavors that you have added to your refrigerator "stockpot" during the week.

To improve the flavor of canned bouillon and consomm , try simmering with some additional seasonings such as extra onion, garlic, celery and/or bouquet garni for about five minutes. It will significantly improve the flavor.

A leaf of lettuce dropped into the pot absorbs the grease from the top of the soup. Remove the lettuce and throw it away as soon as it has served its purpose.

Don't throw away steak, roast, or chicken bones. Wrap them and freeze until needed for soup stock.

Always start cooking meat and bones in cold, salted water.

For clear soup broth, strain the stock through a coffee filter or clean nylon hose.

If stew is too salty, add raw cut potatoes and discard once they have cooked and absorbed the salt.

Add two or three eggshells to soup stock, and simmer for 10 minutes. The shells will help clarify the broth.

If soup or stew is too salty, add a teaspoon each of cider vinegar and sugar, or simply add sugar.

To remove fat from soup, add a few lettuce leaves. The fat will cling to them.

Onions and garlic don't need to be peeled when adding to a stockpot if you're going to strain the stock and discard them later. Just wash them and cut them up.

If too salty, add raw cut potatoes and discard when they have cooked and absorbed the salt.

Shake soup cans before opening them, and then open the bottom end. The soup will slide out of the can easily.

Chili

A teaspoon or so of vanilla extract in chili helps cut the acidity of the tomatoes!

Gumbo
Add sliced okra to gumbo about 20 minutes before serving; cook just until tender. Excessive cooking results in a pot of stringy, viscous gumbo.

Do not add fil powder to the pot of gumbo. It will break down with excessive cooking. Fil powder should be added to the individual serving bowl, 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon each, depending on personal preference and bowl size. If you add it to the whole pot of gumbo, do not re-boil.

Stock
Never salt stock until it is used in its final product, such as sauce or soup. Otherwise, the saltiness would increase as the stock is reduced during cooking.

Never use internal organs such as livers, hearts, gizzards or kidneys in making stock. They contain blood which gives stock a very strong and unpleasant taste.

To avoid risk of bacterial growth, do not leave prepared stock in the refrigerator longer than two days. Freeze for longer storage.

Bring stock to a full boil and skim the surface BEFORE adding your seasonings or herbs so that you don't skim them all away.

Do not freeze stocks longer than six months. Poultry and veal stocks begin to lose their flavor, and fish stocks get very "fishy."

When straining stocks for use or storage, be sure to press firmly on the bones and vegetables to release the flavor.