My Mother’s Re-Recycled Meat Soup

lentil and lamb soup with noodlesMy mother served soup at every meal. For Friday night dinner, she served clear chicken broth with noodles. For dairy meals, she opened a can of tomato or mushroom. But  her meat soups were the foundation of her cooking system.

What was in the soup? Hard to say. Probably some chicken broth, and odd bits of meat and vegetables from various meals. The vegetables used to make the chicken broth, chopped finely to add texture. Beans and potatoes from the Sabbath stew. Rice and potatoes. Gravy and leftover liquid from cooking vegetables.

Her method was based on sound principles of food storage. After serving the soup, she brought it to a boil a second time to kill any remaining bacteria. She ladled it into clean, wide-mouthed glass jars, and covered the jars with metal pot covers until the jars cooled off somewhat. Then she screwed on the metal covers, which she lined with pre-cut squares of wax paper. The paper prevented rust from getting into the soup. The soup was stored in the refrigerator, never in the freezer. Her method worked because once she opened a jar, she emptied it all into the pot and boiled it up. She made sure to reboil what was left, along with any additions, and put it into into a clean jar.The bacteria never had a chance.

She stored chicken broth the same way. Her chicken broth had a layer of fat on top, and could keep for several weeks. She calculated the broth carefully so as not to have to use half a jar, because once she discarded the fat, it would not keep as long. I guess if she did have some left, she would add it to the weekday meat soup.

Noodles on Friday night are a Sabbath tradition. Some people add the noodles to each individual bowl, as it’s hard to pull out the correct amount of noodles from boiling soup. But this makes the soup cooler. Unless the soup had been boiling on the stove a moment before, my father declared it too cold and sent it back. So noodles were boiled up with the soup.

My mother herself skipped the soup, claiming that she was too busy serving. That meant if the soup boiled away there wasn’t enough left for me, the youngest and the primary server. This often happened when she served chicken broth to guests, because she calculated amounts carefully and company can throw off a schedule.

But my mother never ran out of re-recycled meat soup. When using this method, remember:

  • The jars must be made of glass, not plastic, and have a screw-on metal cover.
  • Clean jars with soap and hot water before adding fresh soup.
  • Soup without a layer of fat will last for several days to a week.
  • Soup with a layer of fat will last several weeks.
  • Always examine the soup by sight and smell before using.
  • Bring soup to a full rolling boil before serving.
  • Reboil any remaining soup before ladling it into clean  jars.
  • Cover the jars immediately with a pot cover. After they have cooled off somewhat, screw on the lids and refrigerate. Don’t wait for them to cool off completely.
  • Do not open the jars until you are ready to use them.
  • Never remove part of the soup without reboiling the rest as well.

You may also enjoy:
Extreme Frugality: 20 Memories of My Mother

20 Tips to Avoid Soup Powder or Canned Broth

Photo credit: Maggie Hoffman

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  1. [...] My mother z”l hardly ever threw out food. I think she managed this by serving five meat meals during the week. On the three “fleishig” weekdays, she transferred meaty leftovers from one main meal to the next. Whatever leftovers couldn’t go in a main course were recycled in the soup. [...]

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