This is the epitome of a seasonal dish, and a real “pantry-buster”. A traditional homestead would have veggies in the root cellar such as potatoes, onions, garlic, carrots, celery, etc. and cured and smoked meats such as ham and sausage. So this dish is easy to put together. Even if you don’t have some or all of the items, because they are seasonal, they are generally less expensive at the grocery.
The ingredients for this dish are simple, adjust amounts for how large a batch you’d like to make. Use potatoes, carrots, celery, onions, garlic and your favorite sausage. Peas and/or corn are good additions, as well. Use whatever you have. You may notice by now potatoes, garlic, etc., are looking a bit wilty. This is a sign it is time to use them up! These veggies are fine to use as long as they retain their fresh normal smell. Cut open your potatoes to be sure there are no spots in the middle. Peel all the vegetables and cut into fairly uniform sized pieces.
I like to cook this soup in stages. First, I like to cook the sausages, uncut. “Fry” them in the pot with just a touch of oil. This lets them develop their flavor to the fullest, the skins sealing in all the juices. Once the sausage is sizzling and weeping, add the cut veggies and gently pour in just enough water to cover. Or you can use any stock you may have saved.
Cover and gently simmer the soup for at least an hour, until the vegetables sink, indicating they are fully cooked. At this point, pull the sausages and slice them into bite-sized pieces. Return them to the pot, add a couple cups more liquid and return to simmer.
Now you can decide if you want to make this soup creamy or brothy. Either way, it’s time to add the rue. Rue is the secret to thickening sauces and soups without lumps. Rue is simply a paste formed from a mixture of lot liquid and flour. Pull about a cup of HOT liquid from the soup into a smaller bowl or measuring cup. Stir in about 1/4 c flour, more depending on how big your batch of soup is. Thoroughly combine the liquid and flour to form a thick paste. Then re-introduce the rue to the soup, stirring constantly until the rue disappears into the soup. To reach full thickening potential, the soup must now be brought to a boil, stirring frequently to prevent burning. It need only boil shortly to activate the rue. Then let it back off and reduce to simmer. The soup should now fill about half your pot and be about twice as thick as you expect the finished product. If it is not thick enough, repeat the process of pulling liquid and combining with flour, measuring by Tablespoons, until the desired thickness is reached.
From here, if a creamy soup is desired, it is time to add milk, cream or a mixture of the two. If a brothy soup is desired, add more water or stock, filling the pot. Simmer another hour, stirring occasionally, to marry all the flavors, and then the soup is ready to serve.
Follow these guidelines and be inspired by whatever you have in your pantry or root cellar to create a wonderful soup or stew to ward off the Winter chill.
To learn more about the energy-free tradition of root cellaring, I recommend this book, Root Cellaring by Nancy and Mike Bubel.