Basics of Cooking

Potato Soup: Explained in Detail

I’ve been asked to write up an extended explanation of the Potato Soup that I learned how to make and now have fallen in love with. I made it for Jen’s mom last night and took many pictures to accomplish this task. For anyone new reading this, I was taught this recipe from a gal named Glory. She is an interpreter at the Living Museum in Nevada City, Montana. This recipe is reportedly over 150 years old and used quite frequently in those days. Especially when no real meat was to be had.

So, here goes…


Chop one garlic nice and small. Follow that with half of an onion and one-half pound of bacon cooked up and broken into small pieces.


Toss it all into a pot with one stick of butter (1/2 cup). I use a cast iron pot. It cooks very well and the residual heat when you turn off the burner keeps the soup hot for quite some time.



Since measuring devices weren’t all that common 150 years ago (at least among the little people), use your hand and put enough salt and pepper to fill the small cup of your hand and toss it into the pot. I used a little more than needed in this picture because I was making a “double recipe.”


Turn on the burner to medium-high heat and let it cook up nice and yummy. Taking a spoonful to eat when it is done and before adding the potatoes and water is a favorite activity in my home.


It takes about 5 minutes to cook it up when medium-high heat is used. Stir this all up while it is cooking to mix all the flavors together!


When it is nearly ready for the potatoes, toss in a bigger handful of chives into the mix. Stir it and get ready for the potatoes. If you’re not quite done cutting the potatoes, turn the heat off to keep from burning your starter.


Rinse your potatoes and clean all the residual dirt off of them from being in the ground. I am showing you red potatoes but I caution: the soup does not taste as good with reds and it does not thicken as well with reds. The white potatoes are best. I did not have any in the house when I made the soup yesterday.


Chop the potatoes. Do not worry about uniform size. I always have a few small pieces and a few larger ones. The number of potatoes cut up is determined by what you have available and/prefer. Typically, I cut up about 3 or 4 large potatoes per pot of soup. If you’d wish more potatoes in your soup, then toss in some more. Start with two and go from there. You can always add more potatoes before adding the water to make sure you have as many as you want.


It really is dependent on what you prefer and what happens when you are wielding your knife. Looking at the pictures of my hands, I have to say, they really do look like my dad’s hands! The older I get the more I see my father’s hands in my own. I’m not sure if I should be dismayed or proud to have his hands. Of course, my entire body is near identical to my father. Expect the girl parts, of course.


When your base is finished and the potatoes are all chopped up, put them into the pot.


Before adding any water, make sure you have your desired amount of potatoes. Also, stir it up with the base of the soup to coat the potatoes a bit before pouring on the water. I’m not sure this part makes a difference. I just like to do it.


Add enough water to cover the potatoes and not a drop more. You don’t want a soup that is too runny.


That looks good but now we have to cook it. We’re going to turn our heat to high at this point.


The decision to lid or not lid is yours and yours alone. My cast iron pot came with this lid. The bumps assist in keeping the moisture in the pot. Some days I lid, some days I choose not to lid.


Occasionally stirring, watch for the intense boiling of the soup. When you get to this step, go ahead and turn the heat down to medium-low. Let it simmer for a good hour before deciding it might be done. Don’t forget to stir it now and again!


Keep an eye on the potatoes. As they heat up, they’ll release their starch into the water and start thickening up the soup. As I said, the reds don’t do as well as the whites, so my soup doesn’t look like it is thickening up. However, these potatoes are done. To test, try and use your spoon to squish a potato against the sides of the pot. If it squishes nicely, it’s nearly done. Let it slowly simmer for another little bit and then serve. It took just about an hour to get my soup to perfection last night.


Soup’s done! Let’s eat! Yours will look differently if you use white potatoes. Remember that part. You could serve this with crackers or rolls but we never have. As a diabetic, I get enough of the starch via the potatoes and don’t add to it with more. In my home, we eat this as is, with no other compliments.

I hope this all made sense. Enjoy a simple soup sometime soon!

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Categories: Basics of Cooking, Cooking School, Dinner, Family, Photography | 3 Comments

Cooking School: Lesson 2, Week 6 & 7

We are starting the second chapter of this book: Cookery. The dates listed are the dates for the lessons. Any section not covered with a date will be included on the date given after that section. This way, I can condense the sections and get through this quickly but efficiently, skipping nothing. This entire lesson will take 7 weeks versus the 11 weeks as originally taught. When we are finished, I am hoping we all have a good understanding (including myself) of cooking, itself!

As a reminder, the sections (and dates) are:

  1. Cookery w/recipe Baking Bread (Saturday, April 27th, 2013)
  2. Fire
  3. How to Build a Fire w/recipe Potato Soup (Saturday, May 4th, 2013, Sunday, May 12th)
  4. Ways of Cooking
  5. Various Ways of Preparing Food for Cooking w/recipe Broiled Fish (Sunday, May 12th, 2013)
  6. How to Bone a Bird w/recipe Mashed Potatoes (Saturday, May 18th, 2013, Wednesday, June 5th)
  7. How to Measure
  8. How to Combine Ingredients w/recipe Boiled Eggs (Saturday, May 25th, 2013, Wednesday, June 5th)
  9. Ways of Preserving w/recipe Hash
  10. Table of Measures and Weights w/recipe Scalloped Eggs (Saturday, June 1st, 2013, Monday, June 17)
  11. Time Tables for Cooking w/recipe Blanc-Mange (Saturday, June 8th, 2013, Monday, June 17)

Chapter 2, Section 9: Ways of Preserving

“Foods which spoil readily are frozen for transportation, and must be kept packed in ice until used.”

There are several ways the book discusses preserving foods.

  • By Freezing: Extreme temperatures until frozen.
  • By Refrigeration: A simple cold storage.
  • By Canning: Preserving in air-tight glass jars or tin cans hermetically sealed. To can fruit, one must add sugar.
  • By Sugar: Fruit juices and condensed milk are preserved with sugar added.
  • By Exclusion of Air: Remove the air. Simple.
  • By Drying: Evaporation of all moisture. The book states this is typically done with a bit of salt, as well – except for fruits and vegetables.
  • By Evaporation: You can make beef extract this way, states the book. Typically, most of the moisture is removed with some remaining.
  • By Salting: You can “dry salt” or “corning and salting in brine.” Example would be salt cod-fish, beef, pork, tripe and such.
  • By Pickling: Using vinegar and salt (sometimes sugar and spices). Scald the item with these ingredients. Typically used for cucumbers, onions and various other kinds of fruit.
  • By Oil: Sardines, anchovies and such are stored in oil.
  • By Antiseptics: “The least wholesome way is by the use of antiseptics.” Borax and salicilic acid – used sparingly.

The book doesn’t give much more information than that. I’ve tried my hand at canning and, while I have much to learn, I have enjoyed it. I’ll give it another whirl this summer and see how it goes. I would also love to find a way to store by salting. That’s how most meats were preserved in years gone by. It would be interesting to see if I could recreate that safely!

Chapter 2, Section 10: Table of Measures and Weights

This chapter simply gives a list of measurements and weights. There is no other information available. Download a copy of the book if you’d like to save a list for yourself. Perhaps, if I find time, I’ll type it up and put it as a PDF download off this site. We’ll see if I can – without forgetting!

Chapter 2, Section 11: Time Tables for Cooking

The same thing here – it’s a list. I’ll see if I can’t get it all typed up. Something to have handy – even if times have changed a little since then. We have faster ovens and stoves, now.

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*All quotes (noted or not) are from The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book c1904, my own personal copy, unless otherwise noted.

** All opinions stated here are my own, not medically backed, unless otherwise stated.

Recipe: Hash (Corned Beef Hash)

“Remove skin and gristle from cooked corned beef, then chop the meat. When meat is very fat, discard most of the fat. To chopped meat add an equal quantity of cold boiled chopped potatoes. Season with salt and pepper, put into a hot buttered frying-pan, moisten with milk or cream, stir until well mixed, spread evenly, then place on a part of the range where it may slowly brown underneath. Turn, and fold on a hot platter. Garnish with a sprig of parsley in the middle.”

Recipe: Corned Beef Hash with Beets

“When preparing Corned Beef Hash, add one-half as much finely chopped cooked beets as potatoes. Cold roast beef or one-half roast beef and one-half corned beef may be used.”

Recipe: Scalloped Eggs

  • 8 Hard boiled Eggs
  • 1 pint White Sauce I
  • 3/4 cup chopped cold meat
  • 3/4 cup buttered cracker crumbs

“Chop eggs finely. Sprinkle bottom of a buttered baking dish with crumbs, cover with one-half the eggs, eggs with sauce, and sauce with meat; repeat. Cover with remaining crumbs. Place in oven on centre grate, and bake until crumbs are brown. Ham is the best meat to use for this dish. Chicken, veal, or fish may be used.”

Recipe: White Sauce I

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • few grains pepper

“Put butter in saucepan, stir until melted and bubbling; add flour mixed with seasonings, and stir until thoroughly blended. Pour on gradually the milk, adding about one-third at a time, stirring until well mixed, then beating until smooth and glossy. If a wire whisk is used, all the milk may be added at once; and although more quickly made if milk is scalded, it is not necessary.”

Recipe: Blanc-Mange (Irish Moss Blanc-Mange)

  • 1/3 cup Irish Moss
  • 4 cups Milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

“Soak moss fifteen minutes in cold water to cover, drain, pick over, and add to milk; cook in double boiler thirty minutes; the milk will seem but little thicker than when put on to cook, but if cooked longer, blanc-mange will be too stiff. Add salt, strain, flavor, re-strain, and fill individual moulds previously dipped in cold water; chill, turn on glass dish, surround with thin slices of banana, and place a slice on each mould. Serve with sugar and cream.”

Does anyone know what Irish Moss is?

Recipe: Chocolate Blanc-Mange

“Irish Moss Blanc-Mange flavored with chocolate. Melt one and one-half squares Baker’s chocolate, add one-fourth cup sugar and one-third cup boiling water, stir until perfectly smooth, adding to milk just before taking from fire. Serve with sugar and cream.”

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