In Autumn, a Young Woman’s Fancy Turns to….Making Soup Stock?

About a year ago I gave myself permission to label all the activities that I waste my time on as “hobbies.”  Sudoku?  One of my hobbies now.  Driving randomly around on the county roads near my house, then seeing if I can get home without GPS even though all I see is cornfields?  (Weird) hobby.  Watching dog training videos, even though I don’t have a dog yet?  Hobby.  Teaching myself to cook Korean food based on internet bloggers?  Delicious, delicious hobby.  But when the temperature starts to dip (please start to dip soon), then all I want to do is make soup stock. 

There is something deeply satisfying about taking all of the scraps out of my fridge and turning it into an enormous pot of unctuous liquid gold that I can freeze and use anytime I want.  Part of this is my Mormon frugality.  I grew up with an enormous garden in the backyard and adventures of picking plums off a wild tree in the empty lot to make jelly.  The huge concord grape vine that acts as a privacy fence in the backyard also makes intensely flavored bottled juice that we enjoyed all winter.  Our big raspberry and strawberry patches supplied tastes of sunshine that we could freeze or bottle and open back up when we started to forget the tastes of summer.  Stocking food for winter is probably in my northern DNA somewhere—a guard against the vagaries of long winters.

But making soup stock is also a kind of magic alchemy for me.  How much flavor can I coax out of bones and scraps and wilted celery leaves?  What do I have around the house that I can throw in?  A saggy carrot, annoyingly small onions, pan drippings from dinner a couple of days ago that I carefully scraped and tupperwared away.  Then I see how low of a simmer I can maintain, skim foam off the top, and wait.  I usually go to bed with the pot lightly simmering and wake up to the most magical smell.  I order 4 cup plastic “takeout” soup containers in bulk.  I fill them with the cooled and strained stock and stack them in my deep freeze like an adult minecraft game.  Chicken, pork, beef pho.  All ready to defrost when I need them.

This kind of physical production is fairly far removed from my mostly intellectual profession.  It requires me to engage different parts of my brain and different senses.  I have to be creative and patient.  It is a solitary activity, but somehow connects me to the women who have gone on before me—using every scrap they had to feed their families.  It is my profoundly comforting hobby.


  1. This is wonderful. I feel the same way about farming/planting things, though I’m no good at it. Working closely with the essential arts of survival (cooking, growing, building) somehow makes me feel a bit more engaged with holiness.

  2. “a bit more engaged with holiness.” I love that turn of phrase.

  3. I understand the pleasure of making stock….but I confess, I tend to use a stove-top pressure cooker. Beautiful rich color in minutes.

    Kind of negates the time investment that you describe. But for me, it is a reminder of the sisters in our ward in Brasil. Few of them had a microwave because the electrical system was not even enough to avoid ruining appliances (we also did laundry by hand). But the simple non-electronic pressure cooker is a great time-saver for cooking beans and less-desirable pieces of meat.

  4. Kevin Barney says:

    This made me think of my father, who was a big soup stock guy.

  5. I find that these small (sometimes mindless) creative activities are catalysts for much larger stretches of my creativity. I might be just making stock (or juicing grapes, as that is what I like to do in the late summer – folding laundry works for the rest of the year), but while my hands/recipes keep the verbal part of my brain occupied, the nonverbal is free to unleash its strength and have my greatest lightbulb moments with my art.

  6. “a bit more engaged with holiness.” Yes. Yes yes yes.

    I do this too, and always feel connected to my foremothers for the same reasons. There is something holy about the alchemy of talking base ingredients and simmering them to gold.

  7. I love to buy the whole chickens when they get down to $4 each. Boil with all the veggies and take out then shred all the meat. Throw the rest back in with the veggies and cook it down. So good to freeze and pull out later for anything. Thanks for the tip on the 4 cup soup containers! That’ll be much less messy than my gallon zip-locks.

  8. Thank you for not calling it bone broth.

  9. I love this post, Karen. And L-dG’s comment as well.

  10. Last week I had something like a head cold for a couple of days. The changing seasons and high pollen count had me feeling under the weather and I didn’t feel like eating or cooking. Then I thought of pho, and it was perfect. A rich broth with enough pepper to clear the sinuses is good for the body and the soul.

  11. I felt like I was reading my own words. Overnight simmers of broth. I love waking in the night to the smell. I’m glad there are more of us.

  12. I get the same overnight-olifactory love making crock-pot apple butter. Throw everything in the crock pot at night, wake in the morning to the delicious, delicious smell of perfect fall toast-topping.

  13. We do that every year, Tracy, after we go pick apples. One of the joys of living in upstate New York.

  14. Alchemy. Well said, Karen and Tracy.

  15. Add to which that homemade stock is so much better than what you can buy in stores.

    Glad to count you as a sister in soup stock!

  16. Beautiful.

  17. This is causing my mouth to water. For those of us less experienced in the craft, can anyone provide some reliable specifics? I know this isn’t something that can be put down in a recipe, but are there links with paragraphs or caveats or suggestions about ratios to help the less confident?

  18. This is perfect, Karen. I feel this way about feeding my sourdough starter and baking baguettes. We should join forces.

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