There are 3 main bases or broths that you can use:
You can make chicken and beef stock by slowly simmering chicken or beef bones and spices in a large pan of water, generally for 4-8 hours or longer-- the longer the better.
You can use as little or as much meat as you want in your soup.
Vegetable soup is made by simmering vegetables and spices. It's a great way to use every bit of the vegetables. Save the tips or tops of your veggies, toss them in the freezer and then, when you're ready to make a soup base, add spices and boil. This is a great way to use the tops of celery or the top part and the tips of carrots that you would normally throw away. When the base is finished, you will remove them and toss them anyway so they don't have to be in great shape.
You can also use those veggies that are going limp and are dying in your soup base. Normally, when you cook, you want the freshest food but with soups, the older the veggies get, the more the flavor intensifies. This makes them great for soups.
For all of your broths, chill them after cooking and remove the fat and the bones (from chicken and beef) and the veggies from the vegetable broth before you start to add the other ingredients.
Here are some general soup tips:
- Start your meats and veggies in cold water. It helps to draw out the flavors.
- Always simmer on the lowest temperature you can and cover.
- For an extra clear broth, strain through a cheesecloth. I don't usually do this, but if you were making broth for a special occasion, you can use this method to get it crystal clear.
- Use dried herbs. They seem to work better for soups than fresh herbs.
- Salt at the end. I usually add my other spices at the beginning and then, at the end, add the salt and a little more of anything else I think it may need. Soup takes a lot of salt. If your soup just doesn't seem to have any flavor, chances are you need more salt.
- If you get too much salt, add a potato to it to cut the salty taste. (The potato will absorb some of the salt.)
- For added zip, add some red peppers or garlic to your soup.
- Always add the longest cooking vegetables first, like carrots and potatoes. Then add things that need to cook less, like peas or corn, at the end.
- For a creamy soup, add some mashed potatoes or instant potatoes or canned creamed soup.
- To bulk up any soup add rice, pasta, potatoes, barley or beans. This really helps to stretch it if you have unexpected company coming.
- Save little dabs of leftover veggies or meat and store in the freezer. Add them to some broth and have a quick free meal.
- You can at times add canned broth to your homemade broth for a stronger or just a different flavor.