(Approx 2-3 hours prep time)
I use our 23-qt. canning pot to make a big batch and fill it to the brim, as everyone in our family enjoys this recipe. It usually only lasts two or three days among our family of five, and almost all of the ingredients can be sourced independently (e.g. from your own garden or farm). You can add/subtract a portion of the water, broth, milk, or potatoes to the recipe to suit your needs.
- 1 lb. bacon
- 3 lbs. potatoes (approximately; any variety will do; I prefer fingerlings, as they stay firm in the soup, and it’s what I grow in my garden.)
- 4-6 large leeks, diced (using all of the white portion and a little of the green)
- 2 large yellow onions, diced finely
- 1 qt. heavy cream (can substitute milk, but…mmm… heavy cream!)
- 48 oz. chicken broth (bullion will suffice)
- parsley, salt, and pepper, to taste
- optional: 6 oz pepper-jack cheese, 6 oz cheddar cheese, 4-6 stalks celery, cabbage, bok choy, green onions
- Cook bacon in the bottom of the stock pot until extra crispy. A little burnt material on the bottom of the pan is a good thing!
- Remove bacon and place on a paper towel to cool; dice finely and save to be added back into mix later.
- Over medium heat, sautee diced yellow onion in bacon grease until well cooked and browned. Scrape the brown-bits off the bottom of the pan; the cooked onions should help deglaze the pan.
- While onions are cooking, dice potatoes into small, uniformed, bite-sized pieces. Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes. Then, drain approximately 2/3 of the potato water (reserving it) and remove potatoes from heat. You can run 1/2 of the potatoes through a food processor, or use one of those Braun hand-held blenders to lightly puree. The starches from the potato cooking water will help thicken the soup, so reserve that 1/3 to add to the broth. I simply pour off some of the water and set the pot aside on the stove. All of the potatoes are to be removed from the soup pot but some are left diced and some are pureed.
- Once onions are well cooked (clear and starting to turn brown), add in the diced leeks. (I typically use all of the white portion and a little of the green.) You may also add some shredded cabbage (1-2 cups?). I like using diced Baby Bok Choy or Chinese Cabbage as well as diced celery. Cook until the leeks and other vegetable matter is soft and wilting. It should be a wet mixture, occupying about 1/4-1/3 of the depth of the pan.
- Add chicken broth and scrape remaining bits off bottom of pan; allow all to simmer for a few minutes.
- Add heavy cream or milk, parsley, and salt and pepper, according to your taste. (People with salt-restricted diets can use low-sodium broth and limit additional salt.) Bring temperature up slowly, so that the dairy does not scald.
- Add in potatoes, reserved potato water, and potato puree. You can process additional portions of the soup through a food processor at this stage to suit your palette. I find a few passes with the Braun hand-held blender works nicely.
- Add diced bacon last.
- Allow to simmer on the stove for at least 30 min to cook off some of the moisture and thicken. Be mindful not to over-heat, as the dairy can scald. Stir frequently because the heavier items will sink to the bottom and burn easily. If you desire, add the cheese at this stage and allow to melt completely before serving. (I use both kinds of cheese!)
I like to serve the soup with a toasted roll or bread, something hearty with a lot of flavor. (Suggestions include Pumpernickle, rye, or an “everything” roll with the garlic and onion baked toppings.) Crumbled feta cheese also adds a nice pop and melts well just sitting in the bowl. You can also make this vegetarian by substituting vegetable broth for the chicken and butter/olive oil instead of bacon. But what’s life without bacon?
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