I tend to cringe when I see jars marked soup starter at the store. What about all the love one adds to a soup chopping vegetables and slowly simmering it on the stove? But then I remembered growing up on chicken soup made from chicken soup base and bouillon and had a change of heart. Are jarred starters the new wave of soup bases or are they to be avoided?
I first noticed these popping up at Williams Sonoma. They sell a beef stew braising base - a long simmered jar of tomatoes, onions, garlic, dark beer, and peppers. The instructions say to combine with potatoes, carrots, and beef in a pressure cooker and you're done in an hour. Now, that doesn't sound too bad (except for my lack of a pressure cooker). But I still can't bring myself to buy a jar. They also sell starters for white chilli, French onion soup, and corn chowder, among others.
These are more than just flavored stock - they include a slew of ingredients and promise you hours of saved time. But, my thinking goes, if something is going to take an hour to make by using a shortcut, what's so hard about two hours from scratch? I am clearly not the target market for soup starters.
Here are some tips from The Kitchn on making your own soup starters:
• Try saving leftover juice from canned tomatoes
• Use peanut butter
• Add rinds from hard cheeses like Parmesan
Have you tried soup starters? What's your favorite soup shortcut?
Related: How To Make French Onion Soup at Home
(Images: Flickr user Marco Arment licensed for use under Creative Commons)