Stone Soup, Irish Stew, Mulligan Stew, Community Stew and Hobo Stew are terms that are often used interchangeably, but sometimes have different connotations. I prefer Stone Soup, as it is often told as a tale of people coming together to create and share a meal. (See links below for more details.)
The basic premise of a Stone Soup party is that you invite friends over and have them contribute to a soup that you all share. If you're not up for socializing, you can adapt these same concepts while cleaning out your own refrigerator.
Some of you less adventurous souls might be nervous about all of this uncertainty. This instructable is about a few things, but it is as much about how to make a good soup base, as anything else. I’ve found that if you have a good base, you have a 99% chance of success, which is pretty good. I’ll even fill you in on what I did wrong when I’ve messed up that last 1% or so of the soups I’ve attempted.
Here are some links to the folk tales referenced above:
Wikipedia’s entry of the Stone Soup tale http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stone_soup
Hobo Stew or Community Stew
If you want to make a huge event out of it, see this article on the tradition of Booyah: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Booyah_(stew)
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Step 1: The Basic Concept
To make Stone Soup invite your friends over and ask them to bring over scraps of food that they’re not sure what to do with. In old stories the soups had random vegetables and meat. Stress to your friends that they are to bring scraps, and not more than about two hands-full per person or your pot will be overflowing.
Have friends scan their pantries, refrigerators and freezers with these thoughts in mind:
-what has been sitting there for a while?
-what is something that I might not otherwise use?
Specific examples are: the end of a flavorful cheese, the last part of a casserole that you’re tired of eating, and often-tossed vegetable parts such as celery leaves, broccoli stems and sweet potato peels. (As you start thinking in these terms, you’ll start saving scraps for soups in the freezer.) Spice packets that I purchased with good intentions and ends of specialty noodles are good choices, too.
Ask about possible dietary restrictions when you call, and consider creating different pots to accommodate for them (allergies, religious observances, and for vegetarian and low-carb diets).
I’ve also learned to have people bring a container so they can bring some soup home. Of course you can send people home with old sour cream containers or baggies full of soup, too.
Check to see if you have enough bowls and spoons. Instead of buying plastic or disposable, think about having guests bring their own bowls and spoons to supplement what you’ve got.
Step 2: The Base
Quite literally, the foundation of a good soup is a good base. Below is a list of the things that I’ve found work ordered from easiest to most involved.
1) Find a bullion that lists something other than salt as its first ingredient. I like the brand Better Than Bullion. Two heaping tablespoons is a good start for a large pot of soup. Put it in the water as soon as it starts getting hot, preferably before you put too many other things in there (give it a chance to dissolve).
2) Sauté some onions, celery, and/or garlic. Using a medium-high heat, sauté your flavorful veggies in a healthy fat such as olive oil until the veggies are translucent.
Healthy fats are generally ones that are liquid at room temperature.
Translucent because that is a sign that the cells have broken down enough to let substances (we care about the flavorful ones in this case) flow through the cell walls.
If you’re not comfortable with sautéing, see these links:
3) Roast vegetables or meats. If you’re not sure how to go about doing this, please check out this video:
Step 3: Learn From My Mistakes
I love to experiment, but I did ruin a soup by adding cinnamon once. It is also easy to add too much salt. Keep testing your soup as it cooks to monitor flavor.
Very tough vegetable skins that don’t soften enough while cooking include kohlrabi skins and broccoli and cauliflower stem skins. The good news is that you can take them out if you put them in, unlike if you add too much of a spice.
If you want to add fresh or whole herbs, bundle them as in a farcellet, so you can pull them out easily:
If you want to add small bones such as a turkey carcass or oxtail, I suggest putting it in a cloth bag of some sort so you don’t get tiny bones in your soup. Some people just make a base ahead of time out of the carcass and strain the whole thing like these recipes say to do:
You won’t need to do this for a\ large bone such as a ham bone or beef knuckle, however.
Step 4: Bread, or How to Handle That One Friend
You might have one of “those friends” who can’t bring herself to bring just scraps of food. You can accept that she’ll go out and buy something for this, but pretend that she didn’t, or you can put her on a special mission to bring the bread. Homemade or the homemade style store bought breads will be great with this soup.
Another bread option is to make dumplings. You’ll be amazed at how wonderful and easy they are if you haven’t ever done them. Basically dumplings are balls of dough that are cooked by putting them on top of the soup. Any doughy recipe will do, but here is one that has worked for me in the past:
½ cup whole wheat flour
½ cup white flour
1 t baking powder
½ cup milk
Go with all white flour if you don’t have whole wheat, do 1 t baking soda plus 1 t vinegar if you don’t have baking powder, use water if you don’t want milk.
Add spices as you see fit: parsley, black pepper, mushrooms.
Combine until thoroughly mixed and form into balls. Drop on to simmering soup for the last 20 minutes of cooking, and cover. Watch so it doesn’t boil-over. They may or may not sink, either way is fine.
Step 5: Soup's On!
Your soup is done when the meats are thoroughly cooked, the vegetables are “fork tender,” the broth is seasoned to taste, and you’re ready to eat.
Two last things:
Don’t underestimate the magic of black pepper. Add some, and then add some more.
Let your soup cool to room temperature, but for no more than an hour, before putting it in plastic or putting it in the fridge.
Participated in the
Homemade Soup Contest