There’s nothing like a good soup when you’re tired of eating fast food or have little time in between the end of your work day and dinner. Many recipes can be converted to slow cooker options while, conversely, crock recipes can often be adapted to the stove top. At Sutton Central we love making soup dinners because there are leftovers for lunch the next day. Leftover soup will last up to three days in the refrigerator.
Preparing your favorite soup recipes on a Sunday afternoon and freezing them in single or family-sized portions is a great way to save time. Some soups are perfect for freezing but other soups that contain noodles take special care.
How to Freeze Soup
1. COOL. Cool your prepared soup by removing it from the heating source and stirring often for 30 minutes (no longer than one hour). Refrigerators and freezers cannot cool soups quickly enough to be food safe. Speed up the cooling process by placing the pot of soup in a bath of ice water in the sink and stir soup often to help release the heat.
2. PACKAGE. Using the proper packaging to ensure your soup tastes great when you're ready to eat it. Label and date gallon-size or quart-size zip-top plastic freezer bags, place in a bowl, and cuff the bag over the edge. Ladle soup into each bag, then let out any excess air and seal.
3. FREEZE. Lay bags flat in a single layer in the freezer; when frozen, stack bags to save space in your freezer.
4. THAW. Thaw overnight in fridge or if you're short on time, use the defrost setting on the microwave.
5. REHEAT. Reheat chowders over low heat; gumbo, stew and soups over medium-low. Stir occasionally.
Warm up and fill up with big-batch soups, stews and chowders from your freezer. Most soups freeze well and can be packaged in individual servings for a quick lunch! If you are making your soup and freezing it specifically for a future meal, here are a few tips to keep your soup looking and tasting great:
· Under cook your vegetables a little. When reheating, they will cook a bit more so undercooking helps prevent mush.
· Recipes calling for pasta may not be your best option for freezer meals as cooked pasta tends to break up when frozen. You can leave it out and while your frozen batch is reheating, prepare the pasta and toss in before serving.
· Potatoes are a challenge to freeze in soups because they lose their shape. There’s no harm, but your consistency will be a tad mushy. I’ve found frozen Southern-style potatoes hold their consistency nicely when used in a recipe you intend to freeze.
· Soups that have a cream base can be frozen but require additional work when reheating. Reheat gently and add a splash of milk to achieve desired consistency.
· Leave out anything you would add the last five minutes such as fresh herbs and garnishes like tortilla strips and shredded cheese. If your soup recipe calls to thicken the broth during the final phase you will want to proceed with this.
I mentioned converting recipes from stovetop to slow cooker. This can require some experimentation but generally I’ve found that most ventures will be successful with a few adjustments. Since there is no evaporation in a closed slow cooker, adjusting the amount of liquid in your recipe may be necessary. If a stovetop recipe calls for six to eight cups of water, try starting with five cups in the crock. If the recipe doesn’t call for liquid, add ½ cup water or broth. For stews and soups, put the veggies on the bottom and sides of your slow cooker, placing the meat on top. For stews I like to brown the meat in a skillet first. In general, 1 hour of simmering on the range or baking at 350°F in the oven is equal to 6-8 hours on low or 3-4 hours on high in a slow cooker.
If you’re like me and you see a slow cooker recipe that looks scrumptious but it’s too late in the day to accomplish, you can often convert it to the stovetop. Recipes with ground beef work well but many meat cuts really need the longevity and slow cooking process of the crock to be successful. You’ll want to plan on simmering the stovetop soup for about an hour to really appreciate the taste that would get from the crock process.
With the resources we have today to search for recipes, there are so many soups you could eat a new one every day this winter. I’ve tried several new ones lately and hope they can warm your home this winter as well!