Homemade soups need not be relegated to the back burner until winter. Thanks to a variety of autumn vegetables, the popularity of tailgating in the coming weeks of football season, and small appliances such as the slow cooker, home cooks shouldn't hesitate to kick off fall with a steamy, comforting soup.
Hearty Corn, Chile, and Potato Soup is a great, easy soup made with chicken bouillon cubes. The creaminess comes from a can of evaporated milk. The vegetables include celery, onion, diced potatoes, and canned cream-style corn and whole-kernel corn. To kick up the flavor, mild diced green chiles are added.
Note that fresh corn can be used in this recipe.
Other fall vegetables such as winter squash and pumpkin create great soups, too.
German Festival Soup from Johnsonville Sausage is truly an end-of-the-garden soup. It is made with a variety of vegetables: onion, carrots, celery, parsnip, turnip, rutabaga, cabbage, acorn squash, corn kernels, fresh tomatoes, and green beans (or whatever is left in your garden).
Cooked bratwurst (cook according to package directions) sliced into 1-inch pieces is added with all of the ingredients, which are cooked about 40 minutes. Barley is another ingredient in the soup. This is an old-fashioned grain that is often seen in German cooking.
Fall is a great time to find freshly harvested sweet potatoes, a vegetable used for baking and side dishes.
Walter Royal, executive chef of the Angus Barn in Durham, N.C., makes a Savory Sweet Potato Soup. Flavored with bacon, herbs, and onion, the peeled and diced sweet potatoes are cooked with carrots, celery, shallot, garlic, and Granny Smith apples.
When The Blade tested this recipe, it was a beautiful, light orange soup that recipe tester Kay Lynne Schaller described as 'really good and easy.' Garnish with creme fraiche, or sourcream.
To reduce the sodium in these homemade recipes, you could omit salty ingredients such as bacon, bratwurst, and bouillon cubes. Flavorful lower-salt versions may be made with the help of other ingredients such as fresh herbs and vegetables.
Start by making your own chicken stock without salt by using the water or broth in which you have cooked chicken breasts or vegetables. Simply remove the chicken or vegetables and freeze the broth in one or two-cup sealed containers for use in soups at a later time. I usually cook chicken in water with sliced celery and onion.
Use fresh herbs in the water, especially if you are not using salt. Of course, you can use pepper or pepper blends in the water.
Soup companies such as Progresso and Campbell's have introduced lower-salt products.
Progresso has a collection with 50 percent less sodium per serving than the company's original soups. These include Chicken Noodle, Chicken Gumbo, Garden Vegetable, and Minestrone.
This summer, Campbell's launched a soup made with a lower-sodium natural sea salt. Information from the company says the soup reduces sodium content by 25 to 45 percent while still delivering flavor. There are now four varieties of Campbell's soups based on sodium content:
Three soups with 25 percent less sodium than the original products.
Seven ready-to-serve additions to the Healthy Request line with 45 percent less sodium than the original varieties.
Twelve soups with 'kid appeal,' reformulated to contain 25 percent less sodium.
The original soups chicken noodle, tomato, cream of mushroom, etc.
Most people think they don't have time to make long-cooking soups, so faster recipes using bouillon cubes rather than homemade broth from beef or chicken are often preferred. (If you have stocked your own frozen broth, you can reduce the cooking time of soup.)
Don't forget about the slow cooker.
Author Lynn Alley in The Gourmet Slow Cooker II (10 Speed Press, $18.95) recommends pureeing slow-cooked soups with the handheld blender.
Among the 20 recipes in the cookbook are regional favorites such as Santa Fe Sweet Potato Soup, Cream of Castroville Artichoke Soup (California), Brunswick Stew (Virginia), Peanut Soup (South), and Walla Walla Onion Soup (Washington).
Ms. Alley notes that different slow cookers cook at different temperatures. Cooking temperatures may vary depending on the size of the cooker.
Armed with a great recipe and a reliable slow cooker, soup's on!