By Chef Jill McCollum, CC

The best soups are made with a base of homemade stock and fresh ingredients. Obviously this can be a time-consuming endeavor. You can reduce your time in the kitchen by using canned or frozen broths or bouillon bases. Even so, plan on taking your time with a good soup or stew.
You can use ingredients when cooking soup that would otherwise be thrown away. Celery tops, asparagus ends, broccoli stalks, onion skins, and fish heads are great examples. These give plenty of flavor and you remove them when your soup base is flavorful enough.

Fresh ingredients are best, but some canned or frozen vegetables will work well, such as peas, green beans and corn.
A hot soup will help recondition the palate between meal courses or after consumption of alcoholic beverages.
Ideally, cold soups should be served in chilled dishes.
If the soup is not intended as the main course, you can count on 1 quart to serve six. As a main dish, plan on two servings per quart.
To reduce the fat content, make the soup the day before, chill, and scrape off the fat that rises to the top.
Savory soups and stews always taste better if made a day or two in advance and reheated just before serving.
Check seasonings of cold soups just before serving as chilled foods tend to dull the taste buds and will need more seasoning than hot soups.
If your hot soup ends up slightly salty, add a white, peeled potato to the soup and simmer for about 15 minutes to absorb salt.
If you accidentally burn your soup, you do not have to throw it away in despair! Pour it carefully into a clean pot and season with a strong flavor, such as curry powder, mustard, or chutney to disguise the burnt taste.
Wine is a great flavor addition to soups and stews. When using wine or alcohol in soup, use less salt as the wine tends to intensify saltiness. Wine should be added at a ratio of no more than ¼ cup of wine to 1 quart of soup.
Beer is also a good addition to soups and stews. A good rule of thumb is to use 1 cup of beer to 3 cups of soup.
Do not be afraid to be creative with soup. If you experiment with ingredients and flavorings, you might just discover a new soup recipe. Nothing warms the spirit like a delicious homemade soup, served with crusty bread and butter!

Brunswick Stew
6 lb raw whole chicken
2 large onions, sliced
2 cups okra, cut (optional)
4 cups fresh tomatoes
or
2 cans (1 lb each) tomatoes
2 cups lima beans
3 medium potatoes, diced
4 cups corn cut from cob
or
2 cans (1 lb each) corn
3 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon granulated sugar

Cut chicken in pieces and simmer in 3 quarts water for a thin stew, or 2 quarts for a thick stew, until meat can easily be removed from bones.
Add raw vegetables to broth and simmer, uncovered, until beans and potatoes are tender. Stir occasionally to prevent scorching.
Add chicken, boned and diced if desired, and the seasonings.
If canned vegetables are used, include juices and reduce water to 2 quarts for a thin stew, 1 quart for a thick stew.
Note: Flavor improves as it is left to sand in refrigerator overnight and reheated.

Crab Bisque
2 sticks butter
1 medium onion-diced
6 celery stalks-diced
1 garlic clove
2 six ounce cans white crab meat
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups heavy cream or whole milk
½ cup all purpose flour
White pepper to taste

Melt 1 stick butter and mix with ½ cup flour, set aside. Sauté onion, celery, and garlic in 1 stick butter. Once tender, add crab meat, let cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Add chicken broth and cream. Bring to a boil, whisk in flour butter mixture till soup is thickened. Add white pepper to taste.

French Onion
7 cups onions, sautéed in 1 pound butter
2 large cans chicken broth
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 cup sherry
3 tablespoons granulated sugar

Heat above ingredients together. Slice French bread with butter and toast until dried and brown. Place slice of toast in soup bowl, top with Swiss cheese, pour hot soup over toast.