How to stock your pantry to make homemade soups

Fill your pantry and refrigerator with the fixings you need, and then homemade soups like this root vegetable soup will come together in a snap.

Courtesy of New England Soup Factory
Carrots and the garnet yams give this bowl of homemade root vegetable soup a royal glow.

Here in New England, we know how to prepare for a winter storm. Fill up the car with gas. Clear vents on the side of the house. Get the snowblower/shovels/buckets of salt ready. And stock the pantry.

Marjorie Druker, executive chef and co-owner of New England Soup Factory in Newton and Brookline, Mass., has been the area’s designated “soup lady” for more than two decades. Her advice to prepare for a long winter is keep your pantry full of ingredients. Keeping a delicious variety of soup recipe options on hand will warm up a dreary winter day, especially when it’s too stormy to leave the house. Marjorie also recommends taking advantage of any seasonal or clearance sales at grocery stores or wholesale stores to load up on these essentials throughout the year. Here are her suggestions for what staples to keep on hand to make the base for countless delicious homemade soups.

Happy stocking and stay safe and warm!

For the dry goods pantry:
Canned tomatoes
Bags of beans: barley, lima, navy, lentils and green split peas
Dried mushrooms (great for stock)
Boxes of pasta: alphabets, orzo, etc.
Better than Boullion stock base paste
Canned pumpkin
Potatoes and sweet potatoes

For the refrigerator:
Fresh-peeled garlic
Worcestershire and hot sauces
Leftover chicken (use bones for stock)

For the freezer:
Pearl onions (great time-saver from chopping onions!)

For the spice cabinet:
Black peppercorns
Kosher salt
Robust variety of spices: ginger, nutmeg, oregano, cilantro, basil, bay leaves, etc.


Farmer's root vegetable soup
By Marjorie Druke
Serves 10-12

"As much as I love the deep, rich flavor of chicken, sometimes I just want chunks of vegetables without the meat. Root vegetables have a strong, unmistakably earthy identity. They cost relatively little, but their rich, concentrated flavor makes them seem expensive. Carrots and the garnet yams (an orange-red variety) give this soup a royal glow. If you can’t find garnet yams, substitute regular yams or sweet potatoes. This is one of the easiest recipes I make – once you cut the vegetables, the soup just simmers until it’s done. When you sit down to eat, you feel like you’re digging into a big bowl of edible jewels."

1 large Spanish onion, peeled and diced
2 ribs celery, diced
1 bulb fennel, diced
6 carrots, peeled and diced
3 large garnet yams, peeled and diced into chunks
3 parsnips, peeled and sliced
3 cups turnips, peeled and diced into chunks
1 bulb celeriac (celery root), peeled and cut into chunks
14 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 bunch fresh dill, chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1. Place the onion, celery, fennel, carrots, yams, parsnips, turnips and celeriac in a large stockpot. Add the stock. Bring to a boil over high heat.

2. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 45 to 50 minutes. Remove from the heat. Add the dill, salt, and pepper.

Kitchen Notes: Garnet yams are an orange-red variety also sometimes called red yams. The yam and the sweet potato are often confused with one another, but they come from entirely different plants. What they do have in common is their sweet and starchy properties, which makes them fairly interchangeable in recipes. In this soup, you could substitute any type of yam or sweet potato if you can’t find the garnets.

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