Four Tips for Better Soups from Fannie Farmer

I recently ran across The Fannie Farmer Cookbook in an antique store. This book was originally published in 1896. Fannie Farmer’s name is still well-known today.

Hearty soups and stews may be a main course at supper. Soup with a salad or sandwich is considered a nutritious lunch—depending on ingredient choices.

Here are four tips from her cookbook for seasoning soups, freezing soups, incorporating leftovers in soups, and soup garnishes.

Firstly, wait until soup is almost finished cooking to add seasonings as salt intensifies during simmering. The salt content of ingredients varies so it is best to season to taste.

Partially covering the soup while cooking reduces it and intensifies flavor. Nutrients and flavor will be kept by fully covering the pot while simmering.

Secondly, soups freeze well. Make a big pot and freeze leftovers in portion sizes to fit your family’s needs. Soups that have been frozen may require additional seasoning and diluting before serving.

Boil refrigerated soups every third day to prevent spoilage.

Thirdly, don’t be shy about incorporating leftovers from the refrigerator into soup recipes. The type of soup dictates what to use because the ingredients need to work well together. Experience will bring good judgment when it comes to these decisions.

Be careful about adding flavorless leftovers. Those vegetables won’t enhance the soup. If the dish didn’t taste good when first serving it, don’t add it to the soup.

Lastly, garnishes enhance taste. Soups appear more appetizing with fresh herbs such as dill, chives, or parsley sprinkled on top. Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for example, is a tasty addition.

A spoonful of sour cream or a slice of lemon is another possible garnish. Nuts, chopped eggs, or raw scallions may work well in some soups. Fresh blanched vegetables make a healthy garnish. Consider soup ingredients when choosing a garnish.

Making a pot of soup and experimenting with garnishes, one bowl at a time, may create a whole new dish for your family. This also allows our pickier eaters to eat ungarnished soup if they prefer.

-Sandra Merville Hart


Revised by Cunningham, Marion and Laber, Jeri. The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, Alfred A Knopf Inc., 1983.