Saturday, January 5, 2013

Wood Cookstove Potato Soup

Since we are now past the holidays and into those long, dark, cold months of winter (don't let my word choice fool you; winter is my favorite season), now is the perfect time to be cooking those cold weather comfort foods like potato soup.  I suppose that there are as many methods of making potato soup as there are people who cook it, so I will merely share what I do.  I apologize from the beginning about the lack of exact measurements.  If you've been following this blog for any length of time, you know how I am sometimes.

First I start by peeling and dicing several potatoes.  A rough estimate of how many would be one medium size potato per person who will be enjoying the end product.  I don't get really fussy about how neatly the potatoes are diced.  I just quarter them and then begin slicing each quarter in roughly 1/2 inch cubes.  At this point, I would like to interject that I admire my sister-in-law.  When she cuts up her vegetables for her potato soup, she is maticulous, and they look beautiful.  You can see her version of potato soup here at her blog.  I think I should hire her to be my photographer, don't you?

Back to my soup.  I cut up two or three ribs of celery (depending on my mood), a couple of carrots, and a medium sized onion.  All of that goes into the soup kettle with the diced potatoes, a tablespoon or two of dried minced garlic, some salt, and just enough water to cover everything.  Bring this to a boil directly over the fire.

The beginnings of potato soup.

While that begins to cook, begin frying a few slices of bacon.  For this batch of soup, I used the oddly shaped end pieces of the bulk bacon that we had purchased on sale a while ago.

The vegetables coming to a boil over the firebox while bacon
cooks and bread rises.
After the vegetables have come to a good boil, you can move them from directly over the fire to medium heat.

The soup kettle has been moved over to less intense heat, and the bread
is now in the oven.  Hey, how do you like my new red Lodge kettle?  It
is porcelain on cast iron, and it was a Christmas gift from my in-laws.
When you are frying the bacon for this soup, be careful not to do it over heat that is too intense.  You want to fry the bacon until it is crisp, but don't try to hurry it along so much that it gets too hot and smokes.  You'll see why in a minute.  Once the bacon is cooked, remove it from the skillet to cool.  Remove the skillet from the stove, too.

Once the vegetables are tender, add milk to the water that they have been cooking in.  I added a good quart to this batch because I was making soup for six people.  Move the pot back over to the fire to bring it back to a boil after the cold milk cooled it off.  While it is heating, you'll want to stir it occasionally and begin to make your thickening.  I combined 2/3 c. flour with enough additional cold milk to make a fairly thin mixture.

The soup is heating over the firebox after the addition
of the cold milk while I mixed flour and cold milk for
Add the flour and milk mixture to the soup kettle, stirring it in thoroughly.  You'll need to stir frequently from this point on since you now have the flour in the soup.  You don't want it to stick on the bottom of the pot.

Now, about this next part . . . .

What do you say we make a deal?  I'll tell you how to make good potato soup as long as you promise not to tell my doctor my secrets.  Seems fair to me.

See, I wrote earlier that you don't want your bacon to cook so fast that it begins to smoke because you don't want your bacon drippings to take on any off flavors which result from them getting too hot.  This is important because you are going to pour your bacon drippings into the soup.  Just remember, we have a deal: no tattling!

Pouring the liquid gold into the soup.
I know that I should feel guilty about this, but other potato soup recipes call for cream, cream cheese or other cheeses, or canned soups--all of which are sources of fat.  This bacon grease and any fat still on the bacon are the only fat in this soup, so I'm not feeling too bad.

Crumble the bacon into little pieces and throw it into the soup.

Sorry this picture is on its side.  I'm having trouble with blogger
today.  It's making uploading pictures a difficult process.
At this point, you need to season the soup to your taste.  I add onion salt, celery salt, garlic salt, and ground pepper--with the emphasis on the garlic salt.  You do what you want, but don't be afraid of the garlic salt.  I think the potatoes need it.  Then, keep the soup over the firebox and stir pretty much constantly until the soup comes to a boil again.  This will ensure that the soup thickens and doesn't taste like raw flour--which is only a desirable flavor in cookie dough.

Unfortunately, this meal was taken immediately over to my in-laws' home to be eaten for supper, so I neglected to snap a photo of the finished product.  I mean, of course, that it is unfortunate that I didn't get the photo.  It is not unfortunate that we took it to my in-laws.  Food always tastes better when eaten with lots of people, and besides, I got compliments from my wife's grandmother about this recipe, and she is a fellow foodie.

Hope you enjoy this as much as we did!


  1. I won't say a word about the bacon grease, but I'm freaking out a little about the onion SALT, celery SALT, and garlic SALT in addition to the salty bacon. *peers at you in mildly astonished dismay*

    Meanwhile, the soup looks delicious. Deadly, but delicious.

    1. Your comment made me laugh out loud. If you knew how little I actually salt anything, you wouldn't be nearly so alarmed! :)

  2. You made me laugh out loud also Jim! Thanks for the shout out about my soup/blog. :) I KNOW mine isn't healthy at all, but comfort food isn't suppose to be, right? :)

  3. I love potato soup-do you have any left overs? lol

    1. Sorry, the leftovers went home with Nancy's grandma. She lives in an assisted living home and isn't too impressed with the food there, so we all sent leftovers back with her.

    2. excellent! I am sure she enjoyed

  4. At our house, there're two camps: Peel the potatoes, don't peel the potatoes. I'm in the Peel the Potatoes camp. Looks like you are, too. Unfortunately, I didn't make last night's soup, so we ate it peels and all. I only grumbled once.

    1. Granny would have said that eating the peels is healthy, so good for you!

  5. Say, what was sitting on the water reservoir? It looks like a delicious pie.

    1. You're right, it does sort of look like a pie, but it is actually a metal trivet that came from Nancy's grandmother's house when she broke up housekeeping. It isn't something that we could use on the stovetop, but it is perfect for keeping pans up off of the vent holes on the water reservoir.

  6. its pretty great blog..i love cooking in the wood..your soup looks yummy

    wood stoves pittsburgh

  7. How fun! It's a chance to cook with you virtually. Not quite the same, but the closest I'll get for now. This is a wonderful blog. What a perfect arena for showcasing your many talents. I'm now a loyal follower. I just need to find my forever home so I can invest in a cook stove. Let the education begin!

    1. So good to hear from you again! Maybe this summer we can find a time to get together. Glad that you stopped by for a look.

  8. love your blog- great resource. I have a very old (1855)cookstove that while very pretty, also very impractical, so with a heavy heart I am looking at new ones- margin gem is at the top of my list, only bad review I found was someone claiming it was very dirty and built up creosote very quickly- but then again maybe he was burning green wood...have you had any issues with it more than your old stove in that respect? Maybe one day I'll get the courage to blog, but I doubt anyone would want to listen! lol

    1. Thanks for your kind words about my blog!

      In comparison to the other two wood cookstoves that I have cooked on on a regular basis, I believe that the Margin Gem is actually a very clean stove. I touched on this a little bit in the post entitled "Little Things Mean A Lot" (April 2012).

      As far as creosote buildup, I would have to say that I have removed more creosote from the Margin Gem than we did from the Qualified Range. HOWEVER, I don't blame that on the stove. The Qualified was not an airtight stove, and it could not hold a fire for more than a few hours. On days when we were away from home for work and school, it would always have to be restarted from scratch when we got home, and if I didn't get up in the night to refuel, it would have to be started from scratch in the mornings as well.

      Since the Margin Gem is airtight, we have had the same fire burning in it for as long as a month this winter. When we leave the house, we always load the firebox as full as we can and then turn the drafts and dampers down so that the fire burns slowly all day. The same situation occurs at night. Having these long, slow burn times is what is responsible for the increased creosote production along with the fact that the total number of hours that the stove actually is holding a fire is drastically increased. Remember too, that our Margin Gem is equipped with a waterfront in the firebox to heat our hot running water. This also cools the firebox somewhat, which can increase creosote production.

      With all of that said, though, there is really not that much more creosote than the Qualified would have produced. We burn only seasoned hardwoods (mostly elm).

      If you have any further questions, please feel free to add another comment somewhere on the blog. I love discussing wood cookstoves!

  9. Thanks! I now know why my apollo has been pretty clean- I have to add wood @ every 30 minutes as it burns up entirely with all the drafts (except the main flue damper of course) closed! But I have baked no problem! Go figure, must be beginners luck. It will wait until I am trying to impress company and then I'll incinerate or undercook. Your input is great- much better than trying to navigate just from sales blurbs on webpages.