Fall’s arrival means soup’s on. And one question I get a lot is: What is the best way to safely cool and store soup?
Food safety is an important issue when it comes to storing soup. Why? When making a big pot of soup, cooks make the soup and turn the heat off so it cools or leave it on the counter to cool. And then they forget about it until the next morning when they see it on the counter. Been there, done that.
So is the soup still good? The answer is a resounding no. It’s been out way too long and has entered the bacteria danger zone.
The first thing to remember when you leave food out is note the time. The rule of thumb is no more than two hours – one hour if the temperature is 90 degrees or higher.
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If you leave it out longer, there’s a potential for bacteria growth – especially with meats and poultry. Reach that two hours, and you’ve reached the bacterial-growth danger zone.
But it’s also not a good idea to put a big pot of piping hot, steaming soup in the refrigerator, because then you have the potential of raising the temperature inside the refrigerator.
Once you’ve made a big pot of soup and are ready to store it, ladle it into smaller containers so it cools quickly. It’s OK to put soup that’s warm in the refrigerator. If you don’t have smaller containers, put some ice and water in a large bowl and place the soup pot in it. The ice bath will cool it down quickly.
When it comes to long-term storing, most soups are good candidates for the freezer, except for cream-based soups, which can separate. Be aware that when storing soups with noodles in the broth, sometimes the noodles can absorb the broth. And when you freeze the soup, the noodles can get mushy.
To freeze soups, use freezer-safe sealable bags or containers. With containers, be sure to leave about 1/2-inch headspace for expansion. When using bags, write the type of soup and date on the bag and add the soup. Press or squeeze out all the air before sealing.
I tend to use bags more often because you can store them flat, saving room in the freezer.
Other ways I’ve frozen soup is by putting the freezer bag in a small empty prepackaged food box. Boxes that are about the same dimensions as a quart-size freezer bag work great. Stand the bag up in the box, pour in the soup and seal the bag. Place it in the freezer. When it’s frozen enough to hold its shape, remove the bag from the box and freeze.
It’s best to use soups stored in the refrigerator within three for four days for best quality and within six months for soups stored in the freezer.
CHICKEN SOUP WITH PARSLEY-THYME DUMPLINGS
Serves: 8 / Preparation time: 20 minutes / Total time: 2 hours (not all active time)
Don’t be put off by the list of ingredients; the recipe is easy and goes together quickly.
1 large chicken breast, skin removed
2 chicken thighs, skin removed
2 chicken legs, leave skin on one
1 medium onion, quartered
3 carrots, cut into large pieces
2 celery ribs, cut into large pieces
8 parsley sprigs
1 / 2 cup celery leaves
2 bay leaves
10 black peppercorns, optional
14 to 16 cups cold water
1 tablespoon oil
2 medium onions, peeled, chopped
5 carrots, peeled, sliced 1 / 4-inch thick
3 ribs celery, sliced 1 / 4-inch thick
1 large parsnip, sliced, optional
Salt and pepper to taste
1 1 / 2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup water
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 / 2 teaspoon salt
1 / 2 teaspoon black pepper
1/3cup chopped flat leaf parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
In a large stockpot, put the chicken parts. You can add extra parts like wings or backs if you like.
Add the onion, carrots and celery ribs. Wrap the parsley sprigs, celery leaves, bay leaves and peppercorns in a piece of cheesecloth and add to the pot.
Cover with cold water several inches above the ingredients. Bring the mixture just to a boil; immediately reduce the heat to a simmer.
Partially cover and simmer the mixture (little bubbles should just break the surface) for about an hour and 20 minutes without stirring; skim the foam that rises to the top. Remove the chicken pieces after they’re cooked through. Keep the mixture simmering 30 minutes more if you want to develop the flavor.
While the mixture is simmering, peel and slice the vegetables for the soup. Mix all the dumpling ingredients in a separate bowl.
When the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove and discard the skin from the one leg, and remove the meat from the bone and shred.
Set a mesh colander over a large bowl or another stockpot and pour the broth mixture into the colander to strain. Discard the solids in the colander.
Wipe out the stockpot, add the oil and heat over medium heat. Add the soup vegetables and saute about 10 minutes. Add the shredded chicken and the strained broth mixture. Simmer about 30 minutes.
Just before serving, use about 1 teaspoon measure to drop dumpling dough into the simmering soup. Season as needed with salt and pepper.
From and tested by Susan Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen. 270 calories (24 percent from fat), 7 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 32 g carbohydrates, 19 g protein, 269 mg sodium, 97 mg cholesterol, 68 mg calcium, 4 g fiber.