Post #666 How to Boil Water

August 21, 2019 at 5:07 PM | Posted in Basics | Leave a comment

About six hundred years ago, when I was about five and we lived in upstate New York, winters were particularly cold, but because we were young and hyperactive, the cold didn’t penetrate too much.  At least, I don’t remember it being too chilly.  Capitalizing on the frigidly cold weather, Lipton’s started a new ad campaign.  Kids about our age or so playing outside in snow as deep as the stuff we were playing in kept looking at a house and yelling “Is it soup yet?”  And the mom inside working at the stove would holler back ,”Not yet!” as she stirred a pan.  Eventually she would holler “It’s soup!” and everyone would rush inside to eat “home made” soup and a baloney sandwich.  It was the start of the instant soup mixes which gave more of a home made flavor than the canned variety.  In our neighborhood, every kid wanted the “home made” soup mixes so we could yell “Is it soup yet?”

All it took to make soup was boil water for five minutes with the soup mix in it.  What could be easier?

Well, I gotta say, making soup is just as easy, and in some cases, just as fast.  And the flavors can be absolutely amazing.  There’s a richness and earthiness to a slow simmered soup that takes hours, but there’s a brightness and freshness to a soup that’s simmered for few minutes with new ingredients that stands in a category by itself.

My two favorite soups I’ve blogged about a few times before so I won’t go too far into detail.  On a cold cold night, Senate Bean Soup is hard to beat.  My brother and I loved that stuff.  Mom made it once in a while and we called it “beengs and cornbread.”  Senate Bean Soup is so called because one of the earlier Presidents (I think it might have Jefferson or Adams senior) had it in the Senate cafeteria and signed an executive order that it had to be on the menu every day.  It’s also known as Yankee Bean Soup, so it seems to be a New England inspired soup.  It’s ham in one form or another, onion, garlic, and beans that have been soaked overnight simmered in water or stock until the beans are tender, then chopped tomatoes are added to bump up the flavor.  Mom never added the tomatoes, but the first time I did it turned one of my favorite dish into my favorite dish.  I don’t always have it with cornbread, but usually it’s there.  Putting the tomatoes in last is important because the acid in the tomatoes will make the beans go tough and not cook if they’re added to early.  Any acid will do this so be careful.

My other favorite soup is Beef and Onion Soup.  Another slow-simmered soup, this one takes time and attention, but is so worth it.  A chuck roast of beef, cut into small pieces, seared in three cups of sautéed onions, then simmered in water and herbs until the beef is falling apart and the onions have disappeared.  Once it’s done, there are so many things that can be done with it.  Add more liquid to make a real soup.  Simmer it so the broth becomes a thick sauce and serve over mashed potatoes.  I’ve also used home made bread and toasted thick slices and put this over it.  So good.

But these are long cooking soups, and I want to talk about the quick soups.  I’ve read some articles where they’re also called Pantry Soups because you make them out of things in your pantry.

Garlic soup is one.  I’ve mentioned this one in passing before, but it’s basically a full head of garlic, peeled and crushed, then added to four cups of chicken broth and simmered for about ten or fifteen minutes.  While it’s simmering, you can boil some rice or some pasta or toast some bread.  The soup is ready when the garlic loses its bite and mellows to a “golden” flavor.  It’s hard to describe but you’ll know it when you taste it.  Spoon some rice or pasta into a bowl, and ladle the garlic broth over it.  This soup is pretty versatile, too.  You can add cooked chicken to it, or thinly sliced veggies.  One person I know added a half cup of cream to it, but I don’t do that since I don’t like most dairy based soups or sauces.  I have added a dollop of sour cream to the bowl as a garnish because, well, it’s sour cream.  What’s not to like?

We were watching Lidia Bastianich on television last week and she made a quick soup that looked delicious.  She cut up a large onion into small pieces, then added celery and carrots cut into similar pieces and added the whole mess, about three cups worth, to a large pot with shimmering olive oil in it.  She stir fried the veggies until the celery and onion were clear then added six cups of chicken stock.  She cooked everything for about twenty minutes until the celery was crisp by easy to chew, stirring every few minutes.  Then she added a large can of cannelloni beans with the liquid and stirred it all together.  Once the beans were heated through, she served it with crusty bread slathered with butter.  It looked so good.

It started a conversation with us.  Partner/Spouse said he didn’t think the celery would add anything to it.  I disagreed.  To me, celery is very highly flavored and adds to whatever it’s in, whether cooked or raw.  I use the leaves in bean soup all the time.  But it reminded me of a soup my mom used to make.

She’d take chicken stock, home made or store bought, and simmer it for a few minutes.  She’d add fresh garlic and some dried herbs and simmer for a few minutes more.  Then she’d add celery leaves and either fresh or frozen spinach.  Once everything was hot, we’d all sit down to eat sandwiches and soup.  It was so good.

This isn’t really a soup, but mom made it periodically.  She’d boil up a big pot of pasta, whatever was on hand.  Then she’d fry up a pound of bacon that was cut up.  While that was frying, she’d drain the pasta and put it back into the hot pot.  She’d add a medium sized can of tomato juice and a large size can of chopped tomatoes, either plain or seasoned, whatever she was in the mood for.  While it heated, she’d finished off the bacon, then pour the entire contents of the pan, grease and all, into the pasta.  It made a horrendous noise, but once it settled down, and cooked a little bit more, it tasted wonderful!!  I’ve made this a few times since and it always tastes just like my memories.  And it never took too long.

So the title of the post is how to boil water.  Put it in a pan and turn the heat on.  Don’t start with cold water; it’ll take a long time.  But don’t start with hot water; it’ll waste energy and not save any time on the stove.  Just turn the tap on and fill the pot.  Put it on the stove and turn the heat on.  It’ll eventually boil.  There are various stages to the boiling.  When the bubbles first start to form and the top is showing some steam, it’s called a simmering boil.  When the bubbles break the surface consistently, it’s called a regular boil.  When the whole pot of water is moving and the bubbles are large, it’s a rolling boil or a roiling boil.  That’s what you want when making pasta.  Water boils faster when the pot is covered, but once the cover is off the heat will dissipate and the boil will stop.  Water that has once boiled, will boil faster the second time around.  Boiling water is not good for tea, coffee, or hot chocolate; you want simmering water.  Using anything else will burn the leaves, grounds, or chocolate.  Took me a long time to learn that one.  Steam will give you burns as quickly as the water so be careful.  Metal pan handles will heat up to boiling stage too, so again, be careful.  BTB means bring to boil; RTS means reduce to simmer.  Adding salt to water helps it boil a little bit faster, just be aware that it will transfer salt to the food you’re cooking.  Back in days before stoves and metal cooking pans, people boiled water by heating stones and putting them into the container of water.  When the stone cooled, they were removed and other hot stones were put in.  Eventually the water heated and boiled.  Steam saunas use heated stones to create the steam being used.  So do sweat lodges.  This I know.

So, tell us all about your favorite soups, and anything you know about boiling water.  Feel free to share the post far and wide.

As always,

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