Making and canning tomato paste

What a long, long day!

I knew making the tomato paste would take a long time, but my goodness, it did drag on!

The girls and I had a sort of assembly line set up. At one end of the kitchen counter we had the electric kettle going, then space for the container used to bring batches of frozen tomatoes. Then there was the giant bowl we used to blanch them, a bowl with a colander for the skins, a cutting board and compost bag for final prep, a kettle on the stove to boil more water, and finally my giant stock pot.

I even remembered to check what size that thing is.

This thing was an excellent investment. We originally got it for when we were making tourtierre regularly, and would be browning more than 30 pounds of ground meat at a time – then adding the rest of the filling ingredients. That was once a year, though. We’ve used it more often just this summer than we have since we bought it!

We did the tomatoes in fairly small batches. The electric kettle and the stove top kettle took very different lengths of time to boil, which worked out.

One kettle was enough to cover one batch of tomatoes. After they had time to blanch, they’d be transferred to a colander over a bowl, where I would remove the skins, then cut them up (and remove the rest of the stem ends, if needed), and pop them into the stock pot. A daughter would get another batch of tomatoes from the freezer, and by the time we were ready to blanch those, the second kettle would be boiling and ready to go.

It took many batches. I figure there were maybe a couple hundred tomatoes, in a variety of sizes.

The cooking was started as soon as the first batch went in, which cut the time down quite a bit, I’m sure. By the time all the tomatoes were blanched and added, the stock pot was about half full – roughly 11 quarts or about 10L.

It took about 2 hours of cooking before I felt it was ready for straining through a sieve.

Our giant sieve has a very fine mesh. Great for straining out the seeds and any bits of skin that got left. Some of the tomatoes turned out to still be a bit green, so there were pieces that never got soft enough to be pushed through the mesh.

If we end up doing this regularly, it’ll be worth the investment to get a food mill.

The tomato sauce was strained a bit at a time, while the cooking continued. By the time I got to the bottom of the pot, it was getting pretty thick, and there was a lot less pulp left behind in the strainer.

This is all the seeds, cores, green bits and fibrous pulp that was strained out.

The strained puree was very thin. Can you imagine if we were not using a paste tomato for this! It would have been more like tomato juice, than tomato puree!

The stock pot I strained into has a very handy feature.

Measurements on the inside!

We went from roughly 11 quarts of blanched tomatoes, to just under 5 quarts of strained tomato puree. This was what I used to calculate how much lemon juice to use, later on. I had wanted to use citric acid, but couldn’t find any. Lemon juice will work, but does affect the flavour, too. If I were just canning the puree at this point, I could have added the lemon juice (and salt, if I wanted) directly to the jars, but that can’t work with tomato paste.

At this point, I took a break for a while.

For the rest of the cooking time, we set up the hot plate at the dining room table, to free up the kitchen, because I knew it would take hours to reduce this to a paste.

I could have cooked down the puree on its own, with just the lemon juice to increase the acidity. After looking at many different instructions for making and canning tomato paste, I decided to include a couple of large, crushed garlic cloves, a big bay leaf, and some canning salt.

The hot plate worked out really well. Once the puree was up to temperature, however, it stayed very hot and quick to splatter all over, even with the hot plate set quite low.

Another benefit to having a pot with measurements on the inside. I could see progress, even when it didn’t feel like any was being made!

As it reduced in volume, I also had to keep reducing the temperature. I only needed to stir it enough to keep it from bubbling and spattering. The more it reduced, the more often it needed to be stirred, and the lower the temperature needed to be turned. At first, I could just sit on a chair to stir every once in a while. After several hours, I was having to stand at the table, holding the pot to keep it from being knocked about as I stirred vigorously. Once it started getting quite thick, I removed the bay leaf. The garlic cloves were completely disintegrated by then.

I must say, towards the end, it was SO tempting to stop earlier because… it’s thick enough now, right? Right?

Not quite.

In the end, it took somewhere around 6 or 7 hours to get the puree into a good, thick paste.

When the spoon could scrape along the bottom, and the paste wouldn’t fill the gap right away, it was finally ready.

At this point, one of my daughters had taken over the stirring while I got the giant stock pot, which they had washed out for me while I stirred for hours, and sterilized the jars.

But how many jars would I need?

The measurement in the pot starts at 2 quarts and, at this point, the paste was well below that. I estimated around 1 quart, perhaps.

Because the paste is so thick, it has to be canned in small jars. The instructions I’d been reading were from the US and talked about “half pint” jars. I didn’t stop to convert that and was thinking the jars I had were probably half pints. Usually I get 750ml or 500ml wide mouth jars. Though the measurements don’t match, what sells as quart jars in the US are 1L jars here. A pint is 500ml so a half pint would be 250ml – or about 1 cup.

The jars I have are 125ml. So, a quarter pint, not a half pint! 😁

Which meant that if there was about a quart of paste in the pot, I would need 8 jars. I had two cases of twelve, so I sterilized one case. With the jars being to tiny, I could use both canning racks and stack them.

It still takes long time for the water to boil! I almost forgot to add vinegar to the water, to prevent the jars from clouding on the outside from our very hard well water.

Much to my surprise, I was able to fill every jar! Granted, for the last one, I was scraping the sides quite a bit, but I still got my half inch head space!

By the time I finished canning the tomato paste, it was well past 1am. I gotta say, I was quite happy to be able to finally leave them to cool for the night!

When I checked them this morning, I found 2 jars had not sealed properly. Which I’m just fine with! They went straight into the fridge to use right away.

I just love those adorable little jars.

We’ve been out of tomato paste for a while. I typically buy cases of them at Costco. The problem is that we usually only use a small amount at a time. Just adding a spoonful into a dish for extra flavour, for example, leaving us with aluminum cans partly filled with paste, that can’t be resealed well. Then we’d be rushing to use the rest up before it went bad. It will be much handier to have it in sealable jars!

I’ve already had some today, adding a spoonful to some leftover pasta I had for lunch, adding a bit of cream to make a bit of a sauce. As my daughter had mentioned when taste testing the fresh tomatoes for me, the Cup of Moldova tomatoes are very mild in flavour, so the resulting paste is not as strongly flavoured as the tinned paste we would buy. Which I don’t mind at all.

The question will be, is all the time end effort that goes into making and canning the paste worthwhile? There are lots of other ways to can tomatoes that take a lot less time. It’s the time that’s the kicker. I have seen some instructions that use the oven to make the paste – basically, dehydrating the puree – but while that might require less supervision, it means not being able to use the oven for anything else for a very long time.

That’s something we’ll have to talk about and decide after we’ve used this batch up, I think.

The Re-Farmer

How they turned out

Last night, after saving some for planting next year, I picked over the blue grey speckled tepary beans we grew, then left them to soak overnight. I ended up using all of the remaining beans.

This is how they looked after shelling.

After soaking overnight, they looked like this.

The got a bit bigger, but not by much, really.

I was going to use them in a soup, and decided to cook them separately, first. This is how they looked after being cooked al dente.

The colour is off because the camera got steamed up. They did lose a lot of their colour, and I noticed they turned the water quite grey, so I’m glad I decided to cook them separately, first. Otherwise, they would have turned my soup grey!

I was going to make a cream of chicken soup, but ended up making an “everything but the kitchen sink” soup. My daughters had roasted several whole chickens, with our own potatoes, a couple of days ago. Today, I deboned what was left of them, and used the remaining roasted potatoes in the soup, too. I also used a couple of yellow onions from the garden, the single shallot I’d picked yesterday, the last bit of slab bacon we had, and all of the Kyoto Red carrots, since there were so few of them. The tiny sweet potato harvest was used up, along with the last of our summer squash – green and yellow zucchini, and yellow patty pan squash. Corn kernels, cut from the cobs, went into the pot, as well as some of the tomato sauce I’d made recently. After everything was cooked, I took the immersion blender to it for a while, adding in some whipping cream at the same time. The very last thing was a handful of shredded cheddar cheese.

I tasted the beans after they were cooked, and they tasted like… beans. 😁 I had not added any seasonings of any kinds, so they were as plain as plain could be. Once in the soup, I honestly couldn’t taste them at all. They did add a nice texture, though, and the ones that got hit with the immersion blender helped thicken things a bit. I like my soups hearty and thick!

I think they worked out rather well, but… well… Aside from what I took out to plant next year, that was an entire year’s harvest, used up in a single pot of soup! 😂 I’ve set aside twice what we planted this spring. Between that and if we get a better growing year, it would be nice to have a much better harvest next year! I also have some beans my mother gave me. I don’t know the name of them, but they are a small (though bigger than the tepary beans) white bean that she grew every year from her own seeds. She’d given some to my sister, who grew them for years. She doesn’t grow beans anymore, so she brought a pasta sauce jar – just shy of a quart – full of seeds to my mother. My mother has no plans to grow them, in her little garden plot, so she gave them to me! They’re a few years old, but there should still be a decent germination rate. Which means that, next year, we should have two different types of shelling beans to grow.

The more, the better!

The Re-Farmer

Making yellow tomato sauce

There are only two people in our household that enjoy eating fresh tomatoes, but even they are getting tomatoed out when it comes to the Yellow Pear tomatoes! They were starting to accumulate, so I decided to make a small batch of tomato sauce.

Along with the Yellow Pear tomatoes, there were about five or six Chocolate Cherry tomatoes, and two Cup of Moldova tomatoes on hand, so they wall went into the pot together!

Being so small, they got mushy very quickly, so it wasn’t long before I was running them through the finer colander we have. Some of the seeds still get through, but no one seems to mind that. If I were making a tomato paste, though, I’d run it through a sieve as well, to get rid of the seeds.

After straining the tomatoes, I fried up some finely chopped onions and garlic in some olive oil until soft, then added the strained tomatoes back to the pot. For seasoning, I added salt and pepper, a bit of sugar, and a bay leaf, then cooked it down until slightly thicker.

It wasn’t quite enough sauce to fill a 750ml jar.

What a colour!

Not too long ago, I found some large mouth screw on jar lids – usually I can just find regular mouth. Since this is going into the fridge, I much prefer to use the screw on lid, rather than the canning lids and rings. I’ll have to pick up more of these when I find them again. Most of the canning jars we have are wide mouth jars.

Not being a fan of tomatoes in general, I didn’t actually taste this to see how it turned out. I’ll have to get my husband or daughter to do a taste test and let me know what they think!

The Re-Farmer

Making and canning crab apple sauce

This morning, I canned up the crab apple sauce I started on last night.

It took about 2 hours to go through and cut up the crab apples in one bin – and that’s the one that had apples taken from it for the large batch crab apple cider vinegar, and a small bucket set aside for my mother.

Who has told me she doesn’t want any more apples. She had been appled out. So we still have another bin, plus the bucket!, to process.

The cut up apple pieces filled my giant stock pot to about 2/3 full.

A few cups of water was added to start the cooking process, and it was then boiled until mushy. Which took remarkably little time.

It stained my new giant wooden spoon pink! 😂

All the instructions I read said to peel and core the apples – which was not going to happen with such small apples! – unless you had a food mill to remove the skins and seeds later.

I don’t have a food mill.

I did recently acquire this…

I picked this up at a dollar store for a completely different purpose. I needed something finer than our colanders, but strong than our big sieve. This turned out to be perfect to use as a substitute food mill. I put in a couple of ladles of cooked pulp at a time, then used a silicon spoon/spatula to push it through, before scraping up the leavings and putting it into a bucket for the compost and moving on to the next batch.

I used our taller, normal sized stock pot for this, which conveniently has measurements marked on the inside.

The strained sauce was just shy of 6 quarts.

It was also very runny.

For the next step, the girls took over, in the early hours of the morning. They tasted it to see if it needed sugar, then cooked it down to thicken it a bit. I forgot to ask if they added sugar, but after tasting in myself, I don’t think they did. These crab apples are very sweet-tart on their own.

They cooked down the sauce by a couple of inches to make it thicker. That done, it was my turn again. I sterilized a dozen 500 ml (pint) jars, then canned up the sauce – a job that seemed to go much faster than I expected!

I could hear the lids popping on some of them, even as I removed them from the water bath!

When done, there was 10 jars of sauce, plus one that was about 3/4 full to go to the fridge, for eating right away. These just need to sit until tomorrow, then they’ll go back into the jar case and be ready for storage for the winter. 😊

I’m quite happy with how these turned out. Love that colour, too!

Now… what to do with the rest of the apples? This is more than enough apple sauce to last us; it’s not something we eat often.

I suppose I could just trim and freeze them for later.

On another note, with the season changing, I’ve asked the girls to switch back to “day shift”. There are things we need to do before winter that require an extra person. Which will mostly be my younger daughter, since my older daughter will have commissions to work on, but she will also be coming out to help as much as she can.

I expected to do more canning this year, but the garden just wasn’t productive enough for it – but more on that in my next post!

The Re-Farmer

Dutch oven scalloped potatoes; almost a recipe!

We had a very successful cookout, with great company and lots of food!

And lots of mosquitoes.

Insane numbers of mosquitoes.

We had bug spray, citronella candles, and even the smoke from the fire, and we still got invaded.

Still, we had a great time of it.

Having company was my excuse to finally use our new Dutch oven.

I’ve been looking up recipes for quite a while, and it’s been rather frustrating. So many of the sites I’ve been finding are just the same links to the same recipes, over and over. I had better luck with YouTube and survivalist/bushcraft type channels.

In the end, I realized I really didn’t need any special recipes so much as get a handle on the technique.

With our planned cookout, we were going to have burgers on the grill, with wieners and hoagies over the fire. So for the Dutch oven, I decided to do scalloped potatoes. I just slightly modified my usual recipe for them.

The first thing I made for them was a cheesy white sauce. A basic white sauce is a table spoon of butter, melted, a tablespoon of flour added and stirred to keep smooth, then slowly add about 2 cups of milk (how much milk depends on how thick you want the sauce), stirring constantly. The sauce it cooked until the desired thickness, then seasoned to taste (I used salt, pepper, paprika and garlic powder). For today’s sauce, I also added a handful of shredded Old cheddar cheese, stirring until melted. The sauce was then set aside until it was time to do the rest.

Along with the sauce, I used bacon slices, sliced onions and peeled and sliced potatoes.

The Dutch oven we got was pre-seasoned. According to the instructions, we could use it straight out of the box. However, since it was our first time using it, I still gave it a wipe down, then gave it a light coat of oil.

My first modification to my usual scalloped potatoes recipe was with the bacon. Pre-sliced bacon would have worked, but we happen to have a slab of bacon right now, so I cut a bunch of slices from that. They were not at all even and pretty, but who cares? 😀

The bacon is there to keep the potatoes from directly touching the surface – at least not right away. As they cook, the fat from the bacon renders out, making another layer between the sides and the other ingredients, until they absorb it. At least, that was the plan.

The sliced potatoes were in a bowl of water, and I didn’t try to shake it off much. The water would add to the moisture that would cook the potatoes, without making things too runny. The potatoes were layered on top of the bacon first, then a layer of sliced onions. Because of the bacon and seasonings in the sauce, no other seasonings were added between the layers.

Because I was making enough for 8 people, I used about 7 – 8 pounds of potatoes and 2 sliced onions. The layers made for a VERY full pot! Once the layers were down, the bacon ends were folded over the top.

Then the cheesy sauce was poured over the whole thing. The sauce had thickened more as it cooled, so I smoothed it out and pushed it down the sides to get it down into the potatoes.

Because it was so very full, I thought it might end up touching the lid, so I gave the underside of the lid an extra coat of oil. Just in case.

Our Dutch oven set came with a carry bag. I put the full Dutch oven into the bag, tucking an ice pack under it, and a couple more along the sides, until it was time to get cooking. The carry bag made it much easier to move the whole thing to the fire pit later on, too.

About 2 hours before we were expecting our guests, I got the fire going.

I made sure to use all maple wood at first. That piece of tree that fell on our canopy tent and destroyed it was nice and dry, and burned really well.

Still, it took an hour to get it down to the coals I needed.

I put a bunch of coals in between the fire bricks I found. We will need to empty the fire pit of ashes, soon, so one of the benefits of using the bricks under the Dutch oven is that it keeps the legs from sinking. More ashes were added to the lid (they got spread out better, after I took the picture), and then I built the fire up again, for later roasting of wieners. 🙂

By this time, I was starting to use pieces of apple wood we’d set aside was we pruned branches or cut away dead trees.

Since the fire was going, with so much more heat on the one side, I set a timer on my phone to go off every 15 minutes, at which point I rotated the pot a 1/3 turn. Getting the legs to rest on the bricks equally was more difficult than expected. I can’t see them while using the lid lifter on the handle to turn it, and I’d sometimes miss. At the very end, though, with my last rotation, I missed the bricks entirely, and the Dutch oven was resting directly on the bricks. It was more than an hour by then, and the coals were starting to die down, so I left it that way.

After about 1 1/2 hours, I decided it was time to take it off. Being cast iron, which holds heat for a very long time, if the potatoes weren’t quite done yet, they would continue to cook, even off the fire.

I ended up using a BBQ scrubbing brush to get as much of the ashes off the lid as I could, then used my fire fan to blow more ashes off the top. We brought out our pizza stone to use as a trivet on the picnic table.

The potatoes turned out to be perfectly done. The bacon was nice and crisp, and the potatoes absorbed the sauce completely. They were perfectly soft – almost creamy in texture, but still holding their shape. While things were crispier around the bottom and edges, nothing was burnt. Just toasty.

They were an absolute hit. So incredibly tasty!!

With how well these worked, we are looking forward to trying other dishes in the Dutch oven as we do more cookouts!

When that will be is hard to say, though, with so many mosquitoes to do battle with!!!

The Re-Farmer

Making chive blossom oil

Last night, I found a large enough, liquid tight jar that would be great for making chive blossom oil.

It’s big enough that all the cleaned and dried blossoms could fit into it. The jar was saved from some Christmas nuts that were available at a local grocery store. Buying the nuts and keeping the jar was cheaper than getting the same type of jar (without the decorative glass) on its own!

After putting the blossoms in, the jar was filled with olive oil, then gently muddled with the handle of a wooden spoon to get out any air bubbles. A label on the top has the date and a reminder to turn the jar a bit, at least once a day. It should be stored in a cool dark place, but with the temperatures we’ve been having, we’d got it in a dark cupboard that is just a little bit cooler than the rest of the house. Thankfully, we aren’t expecting any unusually high temperatures for the next while.

This should be ready to use in about 5-7 days – or longer, if we want the flavour to be stronger.

Making infused oil can be quite easy!

The Re-Farmer

We forgot!

When preparing for this year’s Easter basket, we did three different types of pickled eggs.

While going through the fridge, I noticed a container that got pushed to the back and…

… discovered we completely forgot about the soya sauce pickled eggs!

So I had one with my breakfast.

We were missing the Mirin sauce, but it was still quite good. Definitely something worth making again. It’s too bad we forgot about them for our basket. They would have looked a lot like milk chocolate eggs in there! 😀

The Re-Farmer

Storm Status, and Easter baking

Well, it’s certainly snowing and blowing enthusiastically, out there!

That hasn’t stopped the birds from enjoying the suet feeder.

The driveway is so white right now, it’s messing with the camera’s ability to “see” it, making for some interesting rings of colours on there.

I took this screencap of the weather app on my desktop, just minutes ago. According to this, the worst is still yet to come. It is still conflicting with what’s showing on the weather radar.

Well, it will be what it will be. My main concern is with the high winds, of course. When this is over, we’ll have to do a walk-about to see if any more dead trees have come down, or what branches have fallen.

From the looks of the weather radar, the most severe conditions are hitting the US, as the system sweeps across the Eastern states. I hope those of you living in those states are keeping safe!

While it’s snowing and blowing, we got some bread baking done.

A two-loaf recipe was divided into four small loaves. The prettiest one will be for our Easter basket.

Since I was baking bread anyhow, I made a batch of oatmeal bread, also divided into four small loaves instead of two regular loaves. That way, we get a loaf each. 😀

I’m looking forward to having one of them with a big bowl of chili, once it cools down enough. 🙂

The Re-Farmer

Change in plans

With today supposed to be a warmer day, the family decided to go have a cookout in the fire pit. May as well get some use out of it now, because we might not be able to use it in the summer again!

My original plan had been to do my usual morning routine at the computer, then decide what to test the new Dutch oven with. Making a damper had been suggested, and that seems just the quick and easy thing that would be perfect for a test recipe.

I was just settling in at my computer when the phone rang. It was my sister. Where we going to be home today? Yes… She then started telling me something about Holy days, and she wanted to bring us some chicken, when the phone started screaming and the signal was lost.

My sister had gotten rid of long distance service on their land line, and has been using her cell phone for long distance calls. The problem is, she’s in almost as bad of a cell phone dead zone as we are!

She called back a little while later. She hadn’t realized the line had gone dead at her end – the screaming noise was only at my end! – and had been talking for a while. 😀 When she realized just how much I’d missed, she cut it short and just said that they were going for a drive and wanted to swing by. They could be here at around noon.

So we decided to start the cookout earlier, so they could join us. Which meant no time to experiment with the new Dutch oven this time. We’ll have to plan a day for that. One of my daughters headed out to get the fire going, since it took a long time to get and keep a fire going when the girls had a cookout before, and stayed outside to tend it.

I admit that we are not the best of housekeepers so, of course, the place was a disaster. They did say they would only swing buy, but I thought they might want to come in for tea, so I went on a whirlwind cleaning spree. 😀

The fire was down to cooking stage by the time I was bringing the tray of food when my sister and her husband arrived.

Sort of.

I saw their car pull up the driveway, very slowly, stopping a little past the garage. I figured they’d drive up to the gate, but no. They backed up, then turned to park in front of the garage.

They didn’t want to drive through the “lake” and leave muddy ruts in the soil.

They also didn’t have rubber boots, because, why would they?

Which meant they couldn’t get to the inner yard. Or the house.

So it was a short visit, outside in front of the garage, as I slogged through the mud to them with my rubber boots!

I finally got the rest of the story, too.

My sister and her husband wanted to follow scripture for Holy days. They are Christian, but of a sect that also follows Old Testament Jewish traditions. They wanted to get all leaven out of the house for the Sabbath, and realized they had some breaded chicken cutlets in their freezer.

Rather than throw out good food, they offered it to us, while also just going out for a drive together. Something they haven’t done in a very long time.

That was very kind of them. It’s a shame they couldn’t come any closer to the house, though! They would have gotten their shoes completely soaked and muddy!

After they left, the girls and I had our cookout. My other daughter made tea and coffee for us, and we cooked up some hoagies to bring in for my husband, too.

I just had to take a picture of the set up.

I found it so funny to see the fancy tea cups with coffee in them, and the giant coffee mug with my tea in it, sitting on the very convenient concrete blocks. The lids did a good job of keeping the ashes out of their coffee!

Unlike my tea…

The grill my brother and his wife gifted us with could be swung over as needed to toast the buns.

My younger daughter doesn’t like hoagies, so she’s the one with the normal sized wiener. We only had regular hot dog buns, though, which are comically too small for the hoagies.

It was far windier than I expected, but it helped keep the fire going! We ended up staying out for at least a couple of hours.

We do enjoy cookouts. We need to build a more permanent shelter from the rain and wind, though, seeing as how we’ve had two tent shelters destroyed by weather already. I wouldn’t mind making something that can still be moved, though.

When we build our outdoor kitchen, sheltering walls are definitely going to be part of the design. Wind is a major and near constant issue. We all really enjoy cooking and eating outdoors, and would love to have a nice, comfortable set up to do it.

All in good time. The area I’m thinking would be best to do this – well away from any trees – is not far from where that old shed that lost its roof is located. We have a lot to do in that area because it can be made into a useable space!

Just one more thing on the list of stuff we plan to work on over the next few years. 🙂

The Re-Farmer

Hearty Winter Potato Soup (not quite a recipe)

With all the heavy stuff going on around, I wanted to bring things back to what this blog is supposed to be about for a while. So here is a food post for you to enjoy!

There’s nothing quite like a hearty bowl of thicksome soup on a cold winter’s day! Most of our cooking falls half way between “this is how you make a thing” and, “let’s use whatever’s in the fridge or cupboards at right now and wing it.” So here is the approximate recipe for this soup. Quantities are pretty flexible. This is one of those soups that taste better the next day, so I made a huge pot of it this time.

Bacon, cut into small pieces – I used half a package of sliced bacon
Onions, 2 medium, finely diced
Garlic, several cloves, chopped fine. I like to use lots of garlic, but use however much you fancy
carrots, peeled and finely diced. Three largish carrots was what was used this time. Feel free to include other vegetables, like celery, broccoli, etc. For a large quantity of soup like this one, shoot for a total of 2 – 2 1/2 cups of finely chopped or diced vegetables.
(In this soup, I also added about half a cup of our frozen tiny tomatoes. It is not something we normally use in this soup, because tomatoes and I don’t get along. 😀 )
potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4 – 1/2 inch cubes. For this soup, I like to include different sizes of potato cubes, because I want the smaller cubes to overcook and basically dissolve into the soup, to make it thicker. For this batch, I used about 6 large-ish yellow potatoes.
egg noodles, or other pasta in shapes of a similar size
cooked chicken; we used canned chicken, drained, but this would be a good way to use any leftover roasted chicken or turkey.
cream, about 2 cups. We use whipping cream, because that’s pretty much the only cream we buy, but a lighter cream would work, too
shredded cheese – sharp cheddar is always good, but any strong flavoured, shred-able cheese will be wonderful
bay leaf
dry mustard powder, about half a teaspoon, or to taste. A prepared Dijon type mustard can be used, too.
herbs of choice, to taste (we almost always use a combination of ground thyme, sage, paprika and parsley. If we aren’t using fresh garlic, we’ll use garlic granules with the herbs)
salt and pepper to taste
chicken stock, water, or water with bouillon cubes/powder. I usually use bouillon cubes, and less than recommended for the amount of water used, because herbs, salt and pepper are also used. You can always add more seasoning, but you can’t take it out!
optional garnish: sour cream and shredded cheese

Start by cooking the bacon pieces in a large stock pot. If they seemed to be cooking unevenly, add a bit of water, which will help render out the fat more evenly, and deglaze the bottom so it doesn’t burn. Cook to desired doneness. I like it on the crispier side.

Next, add the chopped onions and cook until the onions are softening and starting to become translucent.

Add the carrots and garlic. Stir and cook until the carrots are about half done. If using other vegetables as well, add the longer cooking vegetables in first.

Next, add the potatoes, bay leaf, herbs, salt and pepper.

Add enough water or stock to cover everything. Since I was using bouillon cubes, I added them at this point, too. I like to chop them up a bit, so that they dissolve faster.

Stir well, then bring to a boil.

Once the liquid has been brought to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for the time needed to cook the potatoes, minus the time needed to cook the egg noodles or pasta. So if the size of potato cubes you cut need 20 minutes, and you’re using pasta that needs 8 minutes to cook, simmer for 12 minutes.

Because I wanted to deliberately overcook the potatoes, I simmered mine for 15 minutes.

Stir in the egg noodles. This was an entire small package of egg noodles. I don’t remember the weight on it.

Add more water as needed. To keep it from cooling down too much, boil some water in advance and use that while it’s still hot.

Stir in the canned or cooked chicken.

The tiny frozen tomatoes were added at this point, then the soup was brought to a boil again.

These are the super tiny Spoon tomatoes, and some cherry tomatoes, we grew last year. Their tiny size allowed them to be added at this stage, but if we were to use regular sized tomatoes, they would have been added with the carrots, much earlier on.

Bring to a boil, then simmer until the noodles are done. Remove the bay leaf.

Stir in the cream and mustard powder. Bring the heat back up and simmer just long enough to heat the cream through, stirring continually. Turn off the heat.

Taste and adjust seasonings.

This is the soup after the cream and mustard powder has been incorporated. You could skip the next step, if you like a thinner, chunkier soup.

Or, you can partially blend it. I have an immersion blender, which makes easy work of it, but if you have a countertop blender or food processor, use it to blend about half of the soup, then return the blended soup to the rest in the pot. Stir and, if necessary, reheat until it’s hot enough to melt cheese, then remove from heat.

Add in a good handful or two of shredded cheese and stir until thoroughly melted and incorporated.

Serve topped with a dollop of sour cream and a bit of shredded cheese, if desired.

This soup always goes over really well, even with my lactose intolerant family! It’s thick and hearty enough to be the main course, with maybe some buttered bread to go with it. If you like an even thicker soup, use more potatoes, and blend it more at the end.

Good stuff!

I think I’ll go for seconds, now…

The Re-Farmer