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Here's a great question from a reader about freezing pantry basics like beans and broth! Can you do it? How and for how long? We have the answers!
Reader Question: I’ve been making dried beans and using broth more for cooking lately. Can I freeze leftover beans and broth so they don’t go bad?
The quick answer is: yes, you can! Of course you’ll need good quality freezer bags and a canning funnel (to help you get your broth and soup INTO those darn bags).
The slightly longer answer is: of course, but there are a few things to consider to optimally use the space in your freezer and store them well (we call this “Freezer Tetris”). First, always freeze them flat — they take up less space, and during these times when we’re all stocking our freezers more than usual, this is more important than ever.
How to go about flat freezing? I like to fill my bags and then use a small rimmed baking sheet to lay them flat in the freezer. Then when they’re frozen solid, you can stack them vertically to maximize the real estate you’ve got available to you. Easy!
- Read the full instructions here: How to Freeze Soup, Beans, and Broth
When you’re ready to use your frozen beans, soup or broth, simply take them from the freezer to the fridge and let them thaw overnight (another bonus of freezing them flat is they’ll thaw more quickly).
As for how long you can freeze them: cooked beans can be frozen for up to 6 months whereas soups, stews and broth can be frozen for up to 12 months.
~Megan Gordon, Senior Marketing Director, author of Whole Grain Mornings, and obsessive freezer-stocker
A FEW FAVORITE SOUPS TO FREEZE
- Creamy Tomato and White Bean Soup
- Potato Leek Soup
- Carrot Ginger Soup
- Broccoli Cheddar Soup
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Freeze Soup In Mason Jars for EASY Make Ahead Meals
How about making and freezing soups in mason jars to reheat as needed for healthy and homemade meals this winter?! There&rsquos nothing more comforting than a warm bowl of soup and this is a great way to prep individual meals.
For this project, I turned leftover rotisserie chicken into a pot of delicious Chicken Lemon Orzo Soup, let it cool, and then transferred it to pint-sized wide mouth mason jars to reheat in the future!
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How to Freeze Leftover Soup
1. Always cool soup first. "Piping-hot soup will defrost other items in your freezer and affect their quality," says David Kamen, professor of culinary education at the Culinary Institute of America. Take the entire pot, place it in your kitchen sink (plug the drain first) and fill the sink with cold water until it reaches halfway up the pot. Let it sit for 45 minutes to an hour until the pot is cool to the touch. Place in the refrigerator for another hour before freezing.
2. For space-saving storage, ladle cooled soup into freezer-safe resealable plastic bags (consider freezing single as well as multiple portions), squeezing out as much air as possible seal. Place in freezer on top of one another in tidy, flat stacks. To defrost, place the bag(s) in a bowl of cold water or place them in a large bowl and let sit overnight in the refrigerator.
3. Freezing soup in a plastic container? Leave less than an inch of space between the soup and the lid. "The more air inside the container, the faster freezer burn will set in," says Kamen. To defrost, put the container in the refrigerator the night before you plan on serving it.
4. Label containers or bags with a description and the current date to keep track of when they need to be thrown away. Dairy-based soups should only be frozen for 2 months&mdashany longer and ice crystals will form, affecting the texture. Brothbased soups will keep for up to 3 months before their taste becomes compromised by other odors from foods in your freezer.
5. Place soups containing beans, potatoes or pasta in the back of your freezer, where the temperature remains most consistent, suggests Kamen. Otherwise, every time you open the door, the soup will thaw slightly, causing starchy ingredients to absorb more moisture and get mushy.
3. Pack in umami flavor.
"If your broth is lacking in savory richness, try adding roasted onion, tomato paste, mushrooms, seaweed, soy sauce, or miso. These ingredients add umami flavor and depth to broth," she says. The choice of ingredient depends on the recipe, though. For instance, tomato goes best with beef broth, vegetable broth, and minestrone-type soups, while seaweed, mushrooms, soy sauce, and miso pair perfectly in chicken and fish broths. Onions work well in just about any broth, though!
This healthy and hearty soup, combining nine different types of dried beans with barley, is pure comfort food that will warm the body and the soul. The recipe calls for navy, lima, black, kidney, lentils, pinto, garbanzo, split peas, and pigeon peas, but if you prefer certain beans over others, omit the ones you don't like and replace them with your favorites. Just make sure the total weight is the same as what's specified in this recipe.
You'll need to plan ahead a little bit to soak the dried beans in a large bowl, uncovered, overnight, and then rinse and discard the soaking water. It's possible to make this with canned beans, but it is much more economical to weigh out just what you need for this soup straight from the bag, rather than open up a whole bunch of cans and then have to deal with lots of leftovers.
This recipe is easily increased and perfect for a crowd, potluck, church supper, or tailgate event. To make this a complete meal, add hot crusty bread and a leafy green side salad.
When You're Cooking Dried Beans, You're Already Halfway to Soup
We'll tell it to you straight: Cooking dried beans takes a heck of a lot longer than reaching for your can opener and rinsing the goop off a couple cans'-worth of white beans. So—in this age of ultra-efficiency and impatience, when we demand that everything we order from the internet come the next day and every show we watch be released all at once—why bother?
Well, you probably already know that from-dry beans have a superior texture (creamy-not-mushy) and—since you season them from the get-go—a superior taste. But enough about that. What we don't talk about enough when we talk about cooking dried beans is that you're not just making beans: You're also making soup.
By adding lots of vegetables, aromatics, and all sorts of other goodies (spices, Parmesan rinds, lemon peel, dried chiles, slab bacon) to the bean-cooking liquid, you're not only flavoring those beans. You're also multitasking, cooking beans and making broth at the same time. How's that for ultra-efficiency?
This technique is the basis of Navy Bean and Escarole Stew, Pasta e Fagioli, and Carla Lalli Music's newest recipe, Hammy Chickpea Soup. You add carrots, garlic, onion, crushed red pepper flakes, smoked paprika, cumin seeds, and—the not-so-secret secret ingredient—a smoky, salty ham hock to the pot with the chickpeas. You let the whole thing simmer away until the beans are tender and the vegetables have given all they have to give to the greater soup cause. You could stop there—shred the meat from the ham hock, toss it back into the pot, call it dinner—but by puréeing the vegetables and a portion of the chickpeas, the soup goes from thin and brothy to silky and creamy.
Let's say that you want beans but you don't want soup. Maybe it's "still summer." Maybe you live in Southern California. Maybe you're making pasta or salad because maybe you're not yet a "soup person." Fine. Fine! Weɽ still argue that you should make that cooking liquid taste so good that youɽ want to slurp it. Because once you've strained those beans, you can save that liquid (freeze it, even) and use it whenever youɽ use broth—braises, stuffing, gravy, or. soups. Hey, we said you weren't a soup person yet.
How to Make Vegetable Beef Soup
Don’t be scared of using frozen vegetables! I actually prefer them in the recipe … something about the texture. Plus, it’s just so much easier than having to prepare your own.
Adding beef broth and water makes a light tomato base that’s not too thick. If you prefer a thicker consistency, sub another can of tomato soup for the water.
1. Cool. Refrigerators and freezers cannot cool soups quickly enough to be food safe. Speed up the cooling process by placing the pot of soup in a bath of ice water in the sink. Stir soup often to help release the heat.
2. Package. Label and date gallon- or quart-size zip-top plastic freezer bags, place in a bowl, and cuff the bag over the edge. Ladle soup into each bag, then let out any excess air and seal.
3. Freeze. Lay bags flat in a single layer in the freezer when frozen, stack bags to save space.
4. Reheat. Thaw overnight in fridge. Reheat chowders over low heat gumbo, stew, and Hearty Italian Soup over medium-low. Stir occasionally.
What’s the Best Way to Defrost Vegetable Soup?
The best way to defrost vegetable soup is to leave it to thaw overnight in the fridge. Just transfer the container from the freezer to the fridge and leave it to thaw on its own. If the soup does not contain dairy, you can defrost it by sticking it in the microwave even if it’s frozen solid! Heat the soup on medium and pulse the microwave every 10 seconds.
Image used under Creative Commons from jeffreyw
If the ingredients have clumped together or if the soup started splitting, you can fix it. Get a whisk and half a cup of fresh stock and whisk the ingredients while gradually adding the broth. If the vegetable is cream-based, use milk or cream instead of stock.
The delicate nature of vegetable soup means you have to be careful not to overcook the ingredients. This way the end result is just as yummy the second (reheating) time around! If your soup is extra chunky, we recommend freezing the solids separately from the liquids. Add the ingredients together only after the solids and liquid have thawed. Now that you know how to freeze vegetable soup properly, you can go ahead and stock up on your favorite soup!