I have warm memories of Popeye the Sailor Man eating spinach to grow strong. Spinach is chockful of nutrients, and is an excellent source of potassium, magnesium, vitamin K, vitamin A, manganese, folate, copper, vitamin B2, vitamin B6, vitamin E, and vitamin C, as well as being one of the best sources of plant-based iron. What’s not to like?
As a result, I’m always on the lookout for good spinach recipes. So when I came across a hundred-year-old for Spinach Soup, I decided to give it a try.
The creamy Spinach Soup was delicious with a slight peppery undertone which added interest.
2 quarts spinach (I used a 10 ounce package of spinach.)
6 cups water
1/2 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk
1 clove garlic or 2 tablespoons chopped onion (I used the chopped onion.)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne (red) pepper
1/4 teaspoon celery salt
1/2 cup cream, if desired
Put spinach and water into a large pan, and bring to a boil using high heat; reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Removed from heat, and puree or press through a sieve. (I used a Foley mill.)
In the meantime, put milk, garlic or onion, and bay leaf in a saucepan. Using medium heat, scald the milk, while stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, and strain. (Discard the garlic or onion and bay leaf.)
Put butter in large pan or dutch oven. Melt using low heat; then stir in the flour. Slowly add scalded milk while stirring constantly. Then stir in the spinach mixture, salt, cayenne pepper, and celery salt. Heat until steamy, then serve.
If desired whip the cream, and put a dollop of the whipped cream on top of each bowl of soup.
Sometimes I think of soup as a winter dish, but I’m discovering that there are also some wonderful soups that feature Spring vegetables. I recently came across a hundred-year-old recipe for Asparagus and Chicken Soup. Chicken and asparagus tips are embedded in a delightful light asparagus-flavored broth that has a very nuanced peppery taste.
The Asparagus and Chicken Soup seemed very modern (and I never would have guessed that the recipe was a hundred years old if I hadn’t known that I’d found it in a 1920 magazine). It reminded me a bit of some of the lovely chicken miso soups that I’ve eaten in Asian restaurants.
Here is the original recipe:
The recipe called for three teaspoons of salt, which seemed like a lot, so I only used one teaspoon of it. I didn’t serve the soup with croutons or Royal Custard, and must admit that I didn’t even know what Royal Custard was until I googled it, and discovered that, according to The Spruce Eats, Royale Custard (Eierstich) is an egg custard and a popular soup garnish in Germany. It sounds lovely, and if I make this soup again, I may have to also make some Royale Custard.
2 pounds chicken parts (I used boneless chicken breast.)
2 bunches asparagus (about 2 pounds)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon celery salt
Put water and chicken in a large saucepan or Dutch oven. Bring to a boil using high heat, then reduce heat and simmer for 2 hours.
In the meantime, cut the tips off the asparagus stalks and set aside. Cut the reminder of the stalks into 1-inch pieces. After the 2 hours, add the asparagus pieces to the water and chicken, and simmer for an additional 1/2 hour. Remove from heat, and remove the chicken. Cut and shred the chicken into small pieces. Strain the liquid and asparagus pieces.
Put the cooked asparagus pieces through a sieve to extract the juice and puree the asparagus. (A ricer or Foley mill can be used.)
Return broth, shredded chicken, and asparagus puree to the saucepan or Dutch oven, then add the salt, pepper, and celery salt. Heat until hot, then add asparagus tips, cook for an additional 5 minutes or until the asparagus tips are tender, then serve.
French Onion Soup topped with toast and Swiss or Gruyere cheese is my favorite “restaurant soup,” so I was intrigued when I saw a recipe for French Onion Soup in a hundred-year-old cookbook. I could immediately tell the old recipe wasn’t exactly like a modern one because the soup was topped with toast and American cheese.
I have a somewhat negative stereotype of American cheese (and it just isn’t the same as Swiss or Gruyere cheese), so my expectations weren’t very high for this recipe. But I was pleasantly surprised. The resulting soup tasted similar to modern French onion soups–and the melted American cheese was yummy (and not the least bit jarring) when immersed in the soup. My husband even said that he liked how the cheese was “less stringy” than the cheese on the typical French Onion Soup.
Here’s the original recipe:
Old cookbooks often just use the generic term “cheese.” This is the first time I’ve seen a hundred-year-old recipe explicitly call for American cheese. According to Serious Eats, James Kraft patented a method for making process American cheese in 1916, and it apparently was widely available by 1920.
This recipe is from a promotional cookbook for Snowdrift published by The Southern Cotton Oil Trading Company. Snowdrift was a shortening made from cottonseed oil. When I made the recipe, I substituted butter for the Snowdrift.
1 slice American cheese for each bowl of soup (Use 2 slices per bowl if the slices are thin.)
Melt butter in a Dutch oven or stock pot, then add onion slices. Using medium heat sauté until the onions have softened and caramelized while stirring occasionally. It will take approximately 45 minutes for the onions to caramelize. Add the soup stock, and bring to a simmer.
In the meantime, lightly toast bread. Cut toast into squares small enough to fit the soup bowls; then cut the American cheese into squares slightly smaller than the toast. Top the toast with the squares of American cheese. Put under the boiler until the cheese melts (about 1 minute); remove from oven.
To serve: Ladle soup into bowls, and top with the toast squares/melted cheese.
Soup is the perfect comfort food on these cold winter days. I recently found a wonderful hundred-year-old recipe for Pearl Barley Soup with Cabbage. The soup was delightful – but the recipe name is misleading. The recipe only calls for two tablespoons of barley – and it is not a predominate ingredient in the soup. This soup is really a hearty, rustic Cabbage and Bacon soup.
Here’s the original recipe:
Since modern pearled barley does not need pre-soaking, I skipped that step. Also, I didn’t think that three green onions were very many, so I used all the green onions in the bunch that I purchased. Here’s the recipe updated for modern cooks:
Pearl Barley Soup with Cabbage (Cabbage and Bacon Soup)
Put water in a dutch oven; bring to a boil using high heat, then add barley, bacon, cabbage, and green onions. Return to a boil, then reduce heat and gently simmer for 1 hour. Add half and half, salt, and pepper. Heat until steamy hot, then serve.
Vegetable Chowder with Meat is the ultimate comfort food. This hundred-year-old recipe makes a delicious hearty soup that is perfect on these cold winter days. This flavorful soup features carrots, potatoes, cabbage, tomatoes, onion, and celery, as well as a little barley. I used beef in this recipe, though other meats would also work.
2 cups tomatoes, diced (or use 1 16-oz. can of tomatoes)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
Put the meat and water in a stewing pot or dutch oven. Cover and bring to a boil using high heat, reduce heat to medium and simmer for one hour. Add barley and cook for an additional half hour. Add carrots, potatoes, cabbage, onions, celery, and tomatoes. Continue cooking for an additional hour. Add salt, pepper, and parsley. Remove the meat from the pot and cut into bite-sized pieces. Return the meat to the pot. Reheat until the soup is hot, and then serve.
When it comes to cooking, March is the month I find most challenging. Many days the weather is still brisk and windy (with an occasional snow shower) – and winter foods seem most appropriate, yet I’m tiring of them and yearn for bright and sunny spring foods.
When I searched for the perfect hundred-year-old recipe for this week, I came across a recipe for Leek and Potato Soup with Imperial Bread Sticks that excited me.
The verdict: The Leek and Potato Soup was easy to make, and delightful; and, just right on a damp and raw March day. The traditional combination of leeks and potatoes in a rich and creamy soup base warmed me, and delicate yellow and green leek pieces floating in the soup provided just a hint of spring.
The recipe called for serving the soup with Imperial Bread Sticks. The bread sticks were made by cutting bread into sticks and toasting. It was fun to replicate how people made bread sticks a hundred years ago – though it I made this soup again, I’d probably either serve it with a warm artisan bread or buy modern bread sticks.
Clean the leeks and remove the coarse dark green tops. Cut the white and light-green portions of the leeks into thin slices. Set aside.
Peel the potatoes and cut into 1/2 inch cubes. Put the diced potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with water. Put on the stove and using high heat bring to a boil; cover and reduce heat to medium. Cook for 3 minutes, then remove from heat and drain.
Add the sliced leeks to the drained potatoes, and just barely cover with boiling water. (I heated the water in the microwave. In days gone by, it would have been heated in a tea kettle or pan on the stove.). Return to the stove, and using high heat bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cover; cook until the leeks are tender (about 15 minutes). (DO NOT drain.) Stir in the salt, pepper, cream, parsley, and butter. Heat until the soup is hot and steamy. Remove from heat, and, if desired, serve with Imperial Bread Sticks.
Imperial Bread Sticks
bread (I used sliced Vienna bread.)
Cut as many slices of bread as desired into sticks 1/2 inch wide. Cut off the crust. Butter both sides of the bread sticks, and then place on a metal baking sheet. Place under the broiler and broil until lightly browned. Remove from oven and flip, then return to broiler to brown the other side. Remove from heat and serve.
Notes: The process for preparing and cooking the leeks and potatoes in the old recipe was a bit befuddling. The potatoes (which I assume were diced into cubes) were boiled for three minutes, then the water was drained. Next the entire white and light green sections of the leeks were added to the saucepan, and everything was covered with boiling water. This mixture was then cooked until the leeks were tender – at which point, the leeks were removed from the water and thinly sliced; then returned to the water.
When I updated the recipe I simplified the process just a little. Perhaps draining the potatoes after cooking them for several minutes removed excess starch, so I retained that step. And, perhaps pouring boiling water on the leeks and partially cooked potatoes (rather than covering them with cold water which is brought to a boil) affects the texture of the vegetables, so I retained that step.
But, for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why the leeks should be cooked before slicing. If seems like it would be much more difficult to slice cooked leeks than raw ones, so I simplified that step and sliced the raw leeks before adding them to the potatoes.
It’s cold and blustery here – and time to make a hearty soup. I searched though my hundred-year-old recipes and came up with the perfect soup for a cold winter day – Bean Chowder.
This savory, comforting, filling and nutritious chowder is made with dried navy beans, salt pork, onions and tomatoes; and it hit the spot perfectly. This recipe is a keeper (though if I made it again I might shorten the prep time by using canned navy beans).
1 quart (4 cups) water + approximately 2 quarts water
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups dried navy beans
1/2 pound salt pork, diced into small pieces
2 medium onions, thinly sized
1 quart (28 oz. can) canned tomatoes
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
In a large saucepan bring 1 quart water and the baking soda to a boil using high heat. Remove from the heat, then stir in the navy beans, and cover. Let sit overnight (10-12 hours). Then drain the beans. Rinse thoroughly and then put into a large dutch oven or soup pot. Add one quart water, the diced salt pork, and the onions. Bring to a boil on high heat, and then reduce heat and let gently simmer for four hours. Add additional water as needed (approximately one additional quart of water will need to be added).
At the end of the four hours, add the tomatoes, salt, pepper, and sugar. Cook for an additional hour, and then serve.