Tayto Crisps

Tayto cheese and onion crisps are a favorite Irish snack. These highly seasoned potato chips boast a very distinctive flavor, and are perfect with a pint of beer.

Bag of Tayto cheese and onion crisps

A sharp cheddar taste explosion with overpowering onion strains, combines with deep fried potato slivers, creating a taste of Ireland I absolutely adore.

No American chip tantalizes my taste buds like a good old Irish Tayto crisp.  No fancy bistro or pub crisps for me, thank you very much. I’ll stick to Mr. Tayto’s favorite crisp.

Tayto crisp sandwich

Please God I’ll never have to choose a last meal, because if I did, I would order a Tayto cheese and onion sandwich, made with fresh white sliced pan, slathered in Kerrygold butter. And of course I’d wash it all down with a nice cup of tea. Or maybe for my last meal, I’d get a pint of beer too.

When I arrive back to Ireland my first meal is usually a Tayto sandwich with a lovely cuppa. I relish every bite.

White bread and butter sandwich with cheese and onion crisps

Mercifully I can satiate my Tayto longings in Kentucky. The Celtic shop near Louisville’s favorite Irish pub, Molly Malone’s, stocks these cheese and onion delights. My husband usually picks up a bag or two when he goes to watch soccer or GAA matches at the pub.

I’m such an addict I’ve even munched through a bag of Tayto while sipping a glass of wine.

Not exactly a gourmet’s delight. But let’s face it! Cheese and wine are considered a complimentary pairing, so I just take my gastronomic experience to a whole new level of unapproved decadence.

Tayto vs King crisps

Now any Irish people reading this blog post will fully understand the flavor question I am about to pose:

 

Tayto vs King ???

 

Which bag wins? This is an age old debate amongst Irish crisp lovers. Originally created by two separate companies with slightly different recipes for this beloved Irish flavor combination, both brands have dedicated and loyal customers.

Tayto are cheesy. King are more oniony. Or maybe it’s the other way around. My memory fades.

This taste off is no competition in my book. King crisps are just a tad highly seasoned for my palate, so for me, Tayto crisps win every time. There are many who totally disagree with me.

But I confess, in a pinch, when I can’t lay my hands on a bag of Tayto, I’ll succumb and munch my way through a bag of King crisps, or maybe even two bags.

One Tayto cheese and onion crisp

And recently I discovered the same company now makes both types of crisps. Hopefully they are preserving rival flavorings from days gone by.

And here’s my Valentine’s Day warning! If your beau takes you to a pub, don’t touch a Tayto crisp if you intend to keep your breath fresh. These crisps are flooding with flavor just waiting to overpower your whole mouth.

My husband is more of a salt and vinegar kind of guy, and Tayto have the perfectly seasoned packet to suit his taste buds. But me, I stick to cheese and onion, a true taste of Ireland in my book.

Open bag of Tayto cheese and onion crisps

A mere whiff of an open bag and I’m in crisp lover heaven.

I don’t care if health gurus claim this type of snack is nutritiously vacuous. I don’t even look at the ingredient list for fear I would discover some ingredient that might end up being a deal breaker for me and my bag of Taytos. I don’t indulge very often so I overlook a little preservative or flavor enhancer every now and then.

Whenever I can lay my hands on a pack of cheese and onion Tayto crisps I relish every last morsel. I’ve even inhaled the last irresistible, piquant aromas from an empty bag.

Bowl of cheese and onion Irish crisps or chips

And so, if you venture to Ireland this summer why not try a bag of Irish crisps. But be warned! The flavor will be very strange for American trained taste buds. These crisps whack a true taste wallop with a smacking, savory zing.

I hope you enjoyed this little trip down my snack memory lane, and that you too enjoy Tayto crisps, a scrumptious, full-flavored taste of Ireland.

 

Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

 

Irish American Mom

 

P.S. This is not a sponsored post. The makers of Tayto/King crisps and Kerrygold butter have never heard of me.  I wrote this post purely to introduce my favorite Irish snack to readers.

 

Purchasing Tayto Crisps Online In America:

 

A quick disclosure note: The link below is an affiliate link and I will receive a commission if you choose to make purchases using this link. Thanks in advance if you do utilize this link for your Irish shopping.

Over the past few months I have received many e-mails from readers requesting information on where to purchase Irish food items in the United States. And so for anyone in America interested in purchasing Tayto crisps or other Irish food treats check out the Food Ireland website. They have a wonderful selection of Irish goodies which can be shipped throughout the United States.

Irish Hot Whiskey

Cold and flu season is upon us. But fear not! Ireland boasts a traditional cure for notorious winter viruses.  Of course, the Irish answer to chills and fevers is none other than a hot whiskey.

Lemon infused hot whiskey with cloves

Whiskey’s medicinal properties are probably why it got its name “uisce beatha”, or water of life?

In Scotland the preferred name for this winter drink is a hot toddy, but whether you use Irish whiskey or Scotch whisky, this steaming, lemon and clove infused hot beverage not only warms the cockles of the heart, but helps ward off the sniffles.

Even if you’re not coming down with a dose of the sneezes, this comforting concoction can warm you up nicely on a cold evening.

In years gone by hot whiskey was called whiskey punch. The early temperance movements were none too pleased with this favorite Irish beverage, and the phrase “punch drunk” was born. I had thought this term was a stereotypical reference to drunken, fighting Irish men, not their libation of choice.  The use of the term whiskey punch died away long ago, but the drink itself has survived the ages.

But be warned. Not all hot whiskeys are created equal. There are many ways to mix this drink, but if the ingredients are not prepared correctly and in the right proportions this aromatic drink can be far from comforting.

When made correctly a hot whiskey can be a work of delicious art.

Here are my tips and tricks for hot whiskey making success.

A glass with a handle for making hot whiskey

1. Choose Your Glass:

 

I like to use a thick glass with a handle. Irish coffee glasses are just perfect.

Drinking hot whiskey in a glass tumbler is risky business. The steaming beverage scalds the glass in no time at all and the only way to hold it is to wrap it in paper towels or a napkin.

So be safe! Use a glass with a handle. (I’m sounding more like my own mother each and every day.)

Studding a lemon with cloves for a hot whiskey

2. Stud Your Lemon With Cloves:

 

I use a nice thick slice of lemon and cut it into two semi-circles.  I’ve seen hot whiskeys made with tiny slivers of lemon and all I can do is shake my head.  Sorry for sounding bossy, but I fancy myself as a bit of a hot whiskey expert. It’s my God given right – I’m Irish.

Before you slice the lemon, it’s best to wash it well with very hot water to remove any wax covering. Or better again, use an organic lemon that doesn’t have a wax coating.

Cut a slice of the lemon and halve it.  Remove any pips from the lemon. I don’t like pips floating in my hot whiskey.

Some people like to squeeze a few drops of lemon juice into their hot whiskey. For me a few drops will pass, but if you over do the lemon juice you’re simply creating an alcoholic lemon Theraflu or Lemsip, which is the Irish or British equivalent.

Stud each piece of lemon with 3 or 4 cloves. Don’t overdo the cloves unless you love the strong flavor of these little spice devils.

 

3. Pre-heat Your Glass:

 

This is my granny’s golden rule of hot whiskey making. It’s as important as pre-scalding your teapot when making tea.

I quarter fill the glass with boiling water and swish it around the glass, before tipping it out.

I’ve seen friends heat the glass by holding it over the spout of a steaming kettle, but that’s too risky for me. My fingers can never escape the steam, so I recommend the water swishing method.

4. Place A Metal Spoon In The Glass:

 

A spoon should be placed in the glass before adding whiskey and boiling water.

I was always told this little trick prevented the glass from cracking when hit by the boiling water. The poor glass could get such a fright when scalded it might split in two.  Now this theory has probably been scientifically debunked long ago, but I still don’t wish to work with frightened glasses.

Another rational for this step is that the metal spoon absorbs heat from the boiling liquid, thereby cooling it down a bit, bringing the hot toddy to drinking temperature a little quicker.

A full measure of whiskey for a hot toddy

5. Measure Your Whiskey:

 

For an Irish coffee glass you really need to add a good measure of whiskey. So I suppose I am recommending one full measure plus a wee drop.

To tell you the truth I just add a good dollop of  liquid gold at the bottom of my glass.  Since I’m trying to sound like an official hot whiskey expert I thought I had better check out the exact volume in a measure of whiskey.

Here’s what I discovered.

A single measure in Ireland is 35.5 mls.

A regular American single measure is 44 mls or 1.5 fluid ounces. Everything really is bigger in America.

But a small American measure is 30 mls or 1 fluid ounce.

So here’s my advice …..

In Ireland add a measure and a wee drop of whiskey, and in America add a full regular single measure of 1.5 fluid ounces.

Remember too much boiling water and too little whiskey yields a watery hot whiskey lacking its famous kick. More whiskey equates to more pizazz, or oomph, or whatever you like to call it.

Pour the whiskey into the glass at this stage. It won’t be alone for long.

 

6. Add Brown Sugar And/Or Honey:

 

Now I always insist on using brown sugar rather than white sugar. The more intense caramel flavors of brown sugar are prerequisite for my hot whiskeys.

Add two teaspoons of brown sugar to the whiskey in the glass.

A little honey is fine, especially if you are making your hot whiskey for medicinal purposes, but don’t over do it. Honey will mask the subtle flavors brown sugar brings to the drink.

Preparing a hot whiskey

7. Pop-In The Lemons:

 

Now it’s time to pop those prepared lemons into the glass to await their boiling water bath.

Some hot whiskey preparers hold off on adding the lemons until after the boiling water is poured over the whiskey, but I like how the lemon and clove flavors infuse the hot liquid when they feel the full force of the boiling water.

 

8. Top Up With Boiling Water:

 

No tepid, luke warm water allowed for making hot whiskey.

The scalding hot temperature of boiling water is required to ensure the lemon, cloves and brown sugar release their flavors and blend together mellowing the whiskey.

My glass takes an additional 5 fluid ounces of hot water to top it off, but some glasses will take more.  The choice is yours.  Pour in hot water, but leave some room for extra if needed.  Should you find your whiskey too strong for your liking, you can always add a little more hot water after you take the first sip.

Irish hot whiskey

9. Stir And Enjoy:

 

Gentle stirring only is allowed. The only purpose of stirring is to help dissolve the sugar.

Too much stirring knocks tiny segments off the lemon slices which detract from the smooth quality of a good hot whiskey.

This drink is definitely stirred not shaken.

Serve hot whiskey immediately. Sip, don’t gulp. This hot, aromatic drink is designed to be savored slowly, allowing the whiskey time to coat your throat and attack all those sore throat inducing bugs.

 

10. Some Variations To Consider:

 

I can’t even believe I typed this heading. My poor granny is turning in her grave at the very thought of destroying a pure hot whiskey with strange and unusual ingredients.

But I just can’t resist mentioning a few additions, just perfect for hot whiskey experimentation:

A sliver of fresh ginger may kick it up a peg or two, adding a medicinal zing.

If you like a sweeter, more mellow drink why not stir it with a cinnamon stick. Whatever you do, don’t add a spoon of dry cinnamon. It won’t blend with the hot whiskey.  A cinnamon stick, however, infuses the blend with an extra layer of flavor.

You can also make your hot whiskey with freshly made tea instead of hot boiling water. A lemon infused tea might be delicious. I haven’t personally tried this one, but I like the idea.

 

An Hot Whiskey - an Irish cure for colds and fevers

And so, there you have it – my Irish hot whiskey making tips and techniques.

Wishing you all sniffle free days over the coming weeks of winter.

But if you can’t escape the winter time chills, a good hot whiskey may be all you need to dampen those flu-like symptoms.

And so I raise my glass and drink to your health.

Sláinte

Here’s the printable recipe:

Irish Hot Whiskey

Serves 1
Prep time 5 minutes
Meal type Beverage
Misc Serve Hot
Region Irish
Hot whiskey or hot toddy is a lemon and clove infused hot beverage that not only warms the cockles of the heart, but helps ward off the sniffles.

Ingredients

  • 1.5fl oz whiskey
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 1 wedge lemon
  • 6 to 8 whole cloves
  • 5 to 6fl oz boiling hot water

Directions

Step 1 Take a slice of lemon and cut it in two semi-circles. Stud the lemon pieces with 3 to 4 whole cloves.
Step 2 Pre-heat a glass with a handle by scalding it with boiling water and then throwing the water away.
Step 3 Place a spoon in the glass. Add a measure of whiskey and brown sugar into the glass. Pop in the prepared lemon slices.
Step 4 Top off the glass with boiling hot water. Stir gently to dissolve the sugar.
Step 5 Serve immediately, taking care when holding the hot glass.

 

Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

 

Irish American Mom

How To Light A Christmas Pudding

When I was a little girl in Ireland I loved when my mom set our Christmas pudding alight. Our annual pyrotechnic show was achieved quite simply, using a candle, a metal spoon, a dollop of brandy and one piping hot plum pudding.

Lighting a pudding

Lighting a plum pudding is accomplished using brandy, whiskey or rum. I like brandy best. For me, the residual cognac flavor on top of the pudding is decadent. 

I know I should be using Irish whiskey – I am Irish after all. However, an old family legend claims I might be a 31st cousin of the Hennessy who left Ireland and started the famous cognac brand. The connection is through my County Limerick born granny.

 

Brandy for lighting a plum pudding

And that’s my brandy loving excuse – there’s a slight possibility my affinity for cognac may be hereditary, but that’s a story for another day.

So let’s get back to lighting this pudding with my favorite spirit, brandy.

Choose a large metal spoon. Not your best spoon please. The candle may cause the bottom of the spoon to turn black. This carbonation is easily scrubbed away afterwards.

A metal spoonful of brandy over a candle flame

Add enough brandy to fill the spoon three-quarter ways full. Leave a small gap between the top of the brandy and the rim of the spoon.

 

Warning! Do not use a plastic spoon. It will melt.

 

Hold the spoon over a lighted candle flame. Hold it for a few minutes until the brandy heats up. If you wish to speed up this process you can pre-heat the spoon in a cup of hot water, but make sure to dry it completely before adding the brandy.

Once the brandy is hot it will start to steam and convection currents will be visible in the golden liquid.

To set it alight, you simply tip the top of the spoon into the candle flame and the booze will alight, burning with a bluish flame.

Lighting a Christmas pudding

Move the flaming spoon over the pudding and pour it on top.

Now the pudding must be piping hot. This will not work with a cold pudding.

Ensure you have removed any decorative toppings from the pudding, before setting it on fire. Melted plastic or singed holly does not add anything to a plum pudding’s flavor.

Plum pudding set alight with brandy

Move the spoon away from the flames.

You can have a cup of water ready to quench the flaming spoon if you wish, but I just blow on it to stop it burning.
A flaming Christmas pudding or plum pudding

Turn out the lights and admire the bright blue flames of your Christmas light show.

The alcohol will burn off the top of the pudding, so once it stops flaming you’re ready to serve your traditional Christmas treat.

Remember you choose to light your pudding at your own risk. This technique is probably not endorsed by any fire department anywhere. So take care when working with open flames. Feel free to have a fire extinguisher at the ready, especially for any enormous puddings.  :)  :)

Wishing you all happy pudding lighting experiments this Christmas.

 

Nollaig Shona Daoibh

(Merry Christmas)

 

Irish American Mom

The Irish Cuppa Tea Plus A Giveaway From Dolmen County Retailers

Believe it or not, Ireland is one of the leading consumers of tea per capita on the planet. Now I would have assumed India or China might receive this honor, but no, the people of Turkey, Morocco and Ireland love their cuppa the most.

And I for one, am a tea-loving, Irish woman. I love to start my day with a nice, warm cup of tea, or should I say pot of tea, because one cup is never enough.

And so today, let’s explore this phenomenon of Irish tea drinking, followed by a wonderful “Tea for Two” giveaway, sponsored by Dolmen County Retailers.

Before I share the details of this giveaway, let’s first enjoy a little ramble about the Irish cuppa tea ……

Cup of Tea and Biscuits

The Introduction of Tea To Ireland:

 

Tea was introduced to the Emerald Isle by the Anglo Irish aristocracy in the nineteenth century. This new Indian import was way too expensive for regular Irish laborers to enjoy in the early years of that century.

Before the Great Hunger, tea was reserved for guests of honor only, likely the doctor or the priest. However, once Ireland’s economy improved in the latter half of the 1800’s, the nation’s affinity for this hot brew just grew and grew.

Vintage China Teacup, Saucer and Plate

Rules of Irish Tea Making:

 

By the turn of the twentieth century every Irish mother was an expert tea maker. Or perhaps I should say “tay maker”.

In the Irish language the word for tea is “tae”, and is pronounced “tay”, which explains why so many cups of “tay” are poured in Ireland every day.

And believe me, every Irish mother knows exactly how SHE makes her tea.

God forbid you forget to scald the pot before adding the leaves or the tea bags. This scalding process involves adding a small amount of boiling water to the empty pot, swishing it around for at least 10 seconds to remove any residue from previous brews, then discarding the hot water.

When I was a little girl in the 1970’s I only remember tea being made with loose tea leaves. In the 1980’s the popularity of tea bags grew. Irish tea drinkers quickly discovered the ease of clean up with this wonderful invention.

But now, back to the rules …..

Only boiling water is acceptable to “wet the tay.” None of this tepid, warm water found in so many American hotels for dunking tea bags hiding weak, tasteless tea leaves.

A boldly flavored, black leaf is imperative for proper Irish tea.

Irish tea is brewed in a teapot rather than directly in a cup.

This facilitates the process of properly “drawing the tay.” Exactly how long the pot must linger over a low heat to produce the perfect shade of brown varies from family to family, and even from person to person within a family.

And for some Irish mothers, the pot must be swaddled in a homemade, knitted, tea cozy to achieve perfection.

http://www.irishamericanmom.com/2014/06/21/blueberry-scones

How The Irish Drink Their Tea:

 

Some like it weak, some like it strong, but nearly all Irish people like it hot. No ice tea for most true Irish men and women.

And don’t get me started on sweet tea. Just like coffee, it’s not for this Irish gal. Even after living in the southern United States for the best part of eighteen years, I still can’t drink this southern favorite.

But I digress. Back to the Irish hot brew ……

Some Irish like their tea as dark as porter when it’s finally poured from the pot, and nine times out of ten milk is added.

No fancy lemons or flavorings.

Just a drop or two or ten of milk, and for some a spoonful of sugar helps the tay go down.

Tea and Scone

Hmmm Yummy

The Famous Irish “Cuppa”:

 

In Ireland a “cuppa” always refers to tea. No “cup a joe” is associated with the term “cuppa”.

We’ll stick to ordering “a cup of coffee”, and reserve the highly honored title of cuppa for none other than our favorite beverage.

In fact, having a “cuppa and a chat”, may be Ireland’s favorite pastime.

Of course there are a few superstitions surrounding your cuppa, with floating tea leaves and rising bubbles predicting the arrival of strangers, letters and riches. If bubbles rise to the top money is on the way. But in some parts, to receive your fortune you need to lift the bubbles onto a spoon before they burst on the edges of the cup.

In my granny’s house floating tea leaves indicated a letter was on its way, but alack and alas there are no more letters in our tea with the adoption of tea bags. E-mails and tea bags must have ensured the demise of letters in the mail. In some parts, floating leaves meant a stranger would soon arrive at your door.

I remember rescuing a floating leaf, placing it on the back of my left hand beneath my thumb, then thumping it with the side of the other hand. The number of hits it took to get the leaf to stick to the other hand told how many days you had to wait for your letter. Perhaps others counted the days to wait for the stranger to arrive in this same manner, and I believe some counted the years till they wed in the same way.

Green and gold china teacup

Irish Pubs Must Serve Tea:

 

No respectable Irish household would be found without tea, and believe it or not, Irish pubs are legally required to provide tea.

I was so surprised to discover this little intricacy of Irish law, but perhaps that’s how those who abstain from alcoholic drinks came to be known as “tea totallers”

 

Irish Customs When Offering A Cuppa:

 

Now when offered a cup of tea in Ireland it is customary to first decline, and to await a second offering of refreshment. In a previous post, I explored this little Irish cultural nuance. One reader, Milly explained this Irish habit beautifully in the comments section of that post:

 

“During the famine, a host, to be polite, would offer their guest some refreshments.

The guest would understand that it was likely there were no refreshments to be had,

and would politely decline.  If the host had nothing to offer,

no further offer would be made, and both parties would understand the situation.

If a second offer was made, it would mean that the host was in fact

in a position to provide their guests food/drink,

and at this point the guest may accept.”

 

Thanks for this wonderful insight, Milly.

A Cuppa Tea In The Hand

 A Cuppa Tea In The Hand:

 

Another peculiar Irish tradition is the offer of a “cuppa tea in the hand.”  When a hostess doesn’t want to put too much pressure on a guest to indulge in a cuppa, the invitation is worded as follows:

 

“Ah sure, you’ll just have a quick cuppa tea in the hand.”

 

The simple sentence is full of innuendo and hidden intent. The hostess is telling her guest she understands what a busy person her guest just happens to be. There is no pressure to have a cuppa, but if the guest does decide to imbibe, a quick departure will be totally understood. There isn’t even an expectation that the guest would have time to sit down.  A cup of tea can always be gulped down standing up if the world is calling.

Oh, the nuances of Irish tea drinking ….

 

Tea for Two from Dolmen Retaileers

The Prize – A “Tea for Two” Giveaway Sponsored By Dolmen County Retailers:

 

Customized gift card from Dolment County Retailers

To celebrate the importance of tea drinking in Irish culture, Des Lee from Dolmen County Retailers has graciously sponsored a prize for a giveaway for readers of Irish American Mom.

One lucky winner will receive a Tea for Two Giftpack containing a box of Barry’s Gold Blend Teabags, 2 packets of Ireland’s favorite chips or crisps – Tayto cheese and onion flavor, and 4 Jacob’s Club Milk chocolate biscuits, a perfect treat with a cuppa tea.

Dolmen County Retailers is a new business whose goal is to bring you a taste of Ireland, even when you are far away from home.  Irish people living abroad often long for a taste of home. Sometimes it’s Irish tea they crave, or biscuits or a special chocolate bar or crisps, or a favorite treat from childhood. Dolmen County Retailers aim to provide a full range of these items which are easy to order with a few clicks of a mouse. Des Lee and his team take care of the rest, shipping your favorites to wherever you are in the world!

They even include customized message cards at no extra charge.

 

The Giveaway:

 

I’m making just a slight change in the giveaway entry process this time around. With more and more entries for each little competition on my blog, manually writing out tickets is beginning to take quite a bit of time. 

There’s something about paper cutting and pens that attracts little ones. Whenever I heard a little voice ask: “What you doing, Mom?”, I started to reflexively respond with “Don’t touch anything.”

So I thought I would give Rafflecopter a try, to see how well it works. I’m hoping it will make the whole process of running raffles smooth and easy.

Extra entries can be obtained by following along on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter. Just log in to the widget below with your name and e-mail address and you should be guided through the steps for entering.

I hope it isn’t too difficult, and thanks to all who comment and enter this little giveaway.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

A big thank you to Dolmen County Retailers for providing this lovely prize. Feel free to leave a comment, even if you choose not to enter the giveaway.  I look forward to hearing your stories about tea.  

Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

 

Irish American Mom

 

And now a little bit of legalize through a quick disclosure: Irish American Mom does not have any financial connection with Dolmen County Retailers and did not receive payment for publishing this post and giveaway. I simply wish to help spread the word about this new Irish business venture. Thank you to all who support the wonderful Irish and Irish American enterprises who sponsor giveaways on my site.

Soup Making Tips For Fall Or Autumn

Once Labor Day has passed, and fall is in the air, it’s time to start thinking about soup. There’s nothing like a bowl of chunky, satisfying soup on a nippy day, to warm the cockles of your heart.

Soups come in all colors, textures, and tastes. In fact, I think it’s safe to say there’s probably a soup to to suit every palate.

Bowl Of Carrot And Coriander Soup

In Ireland, we describe a chunky soup by saying:

 

“There’s eating and drinking in that.”

 

Remember, in this case, the word “eating” is usually pronounced in a manner similar to “eightin”, as in the number 8.

But whether you prefer drinking a clear, soothing broth, or eating a thick, substantial stew, I’m quite certain there is an Irish soup for you.

In the next few weeks and months I plan to share some of my favorite soup and stew recipes.

I know some people feel a recipe is unnecessary for concocting a perfect soup, sticking to the motto:

 

“You can’t go wrong with soup.”

 

Truthfully, you can and you can’t go wrong with soup. For some all-in-the-pot, mix-it-all-together kind of soups, they taste delicious no matter what. But on the other hand, you can go very, very wrong with more delicate, puréed soups, that require the perfectly flavored stock, the right amount of seasoning, or a dash of cream or milk to add depth, and an underlying richness.

An Old Famine Soup Pot

To prepare for the “soup making season” I thought a post on some basic tips for soup success is in order.

 

1. Fresh is Best:

 

Any soup is only as good as the ingredients used to make it, and with that in mind, my motto is “fresh is best”. Fresh vegetables and good quality stock are keys to tasty soup.

Now don’t think I’m not known for opening a bag of frozen peas for a quick soup. I do use frozen vegetables frequently, since they are flash frozen at peak freshness, but I tend to steer clear of canned ingredients in my soups. The canning process adds way too much sodium for my taste buds.

2. A good stock:

 

Stock dictates the underlying flavor and ultimate taste of each and every soup. Choosing between vegetable based stock, chicken, beef or fish stock is the most important decision for any soup.

I often use store bought stock, but truly they don’t come close to the flavor of a good home-made stock. Recently, I have been paying quite a bit of attention to food labels and try to steer clear of any ingredients I can’t pronounce. Some cheaper stocks are full of preservatives, and are laden with salt.  Organic stocks are twice the price, but worth it for flavor and goodness. However, the budget friendly decision is to make homemade stock.

In the coming days and weeks I’ll share my stock making tips with a few basic stock recipes. With a crockpot you can simmer a good stock even while you’re out and about.

 

3. Herbs and spices:

 

Herbs and spices can lift a soup from ordinary to extraordinary. They’re my soup pot heroes. They add flavor, working away busily spreading their magic in the pot. Fresh or dried herbs work well, but the general rule for dried herbs is to use one third of the quantity of fresh.

Saute leeks, potato and onion

4. Make sure the vegetables do the sweating, not you! 

 

Many soup recipes start out be telling you to ‘sweat’ the vegetables. The term does sound a little gross for those not used to culinary lingo, but to tell you the truth, it’s a very accurate description of what is going on in the soup pot.

When “sweating” vegetables, they are gently cooked in a tiny bit of fat, to get their juices to leak out, and to release their inner flavors.  You get their juices flowing, so to speak.

To promote this process, the pot is covered to trap steam, which helps soften the veggies. It’s important to keep the steam trapped in, so lifting the lid is not recommended. Instead, lift the whole pot and give the veggies a good, old shake to stop them sticking.

This “sweating” usually takes about 10 minutes. The ingredients shouldn’t be browned or caramelized, but slightly pale after their time in the pot sauna.

Iron Viking Soup pot over open flame

5. Simmer, don’t boil:

 

Simmering is vital for good soup. When vegetables are boiled they end up tumbling all over the pot, hitting off the sides, damaging their texture and spilling all their flavor into the stock. So simmer, to avoid somersaulting peas and carrots.

Similarly, when reheating a soup it’s important to simmer without boiling. This is especially true for soups with added cream. When the cream boils it separates and creates a fatty film on top of the soup. So, my rule of thumb is, gentle heat for luscious soup.

Using Immersion Blender To Puree Soup

6. In praise of hand held blenders:

 

In my granny’s day smooth soups were achieved by mushing and sieving the cooked vegetables. No such work for today’s cook. Liquidisers or blenders do a fine job of puréeing soup, but ladeling the liquid in batches is slow, not to mind the risk of splattering hot liquid all over the place if the jug is overfilled.

My best soup-making friend is my hand-held blender. I take great satisfaction in blitzing a soup with a quick dunk of its all-powerful blades. There’s nothing like a quick whizz with a hand held blender for a perfectly textured soup. I highly recommend one of these gadgets.

Potato and Leek Soup

And so there you have it! A few good soup-making tips, to whet your appetites for some delicious soups over the coming months. As I type this blog post, a tasty chicken stock is simmering away in my crock pot. I’ll share my recipe in the next few days.

Stay tuned for plenty of stock and soup recipes in my upcoming recipe posts.

 

Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

 

Irish American Mom