Bacon, Leek, and Parsnip Soup

18 Feb

I made a truly wonderful soup for dinner tonight from some produce bin orphans, leftover stock, and some homemade bacon. It was different from anything I’ve made before so I thought I’d post about it.

But first let’s talk about bacon! I recently made two batches of bacon from one whole pork belly. One batch was cured with a mixture of salt, sodium nitrite curing salt, juniper berries, pepper, caraway seeds, bay leaf, and honey. The second batch was not technically cured as I did not use nitrites* — I “faux cured” it using salt, allspice, pepper, and maple syrup. Both batches were cold smoked using apple wood. I put too much salt on the uncured batch, so I’ve discovered that it kind of only works as an ingredient in soup. I made my wife some pea soup with whole yellow peas, some onion, fresh herbs, and a generous amount of bacon which I cooked over coals in a small earthenware crock that’s a replica of pots from the Viking era (what, you don’t cook like that?) and she loved it. She’s been asking me to make it ever since. Peas being legumes obviously aren’t paleo, and although they tend to upset my tummy less than most beans I wanted to find a use for this bacon that we could both enjoy. We’ve been accumulating slow-cooking vegetables for a few weeks and I happened to have some duck stock left from another project, so I decided to make a nice pureed soup. I’ve adapted what I did to be a recipe that other people who don’t happen to have a freezer full of too-salty bacon and random containers of duck stock could also follow:

Ingredients:

  • ~1 cup bacon ends and pieces or chopped up bacon (more or less to suit your taste)
  • 5 small to medium parsnips, washed, peeled, and chopped
  • 3 medium sized leeks, washed, sliced into rings, and washed again, because leeks always bring plenty of their native earth with them
  • Sprig of fresh rosemary, several sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1 quart stock, broth, or just water

Cook the bacon over medium low heat until the fat begins to render out. Add the sliced leeks and cook until they start to soften. Add the parsnip pieces and cook a little longer. Add the stock, broth, or water and herbs, and bring to gentle boil. Simmer, covered, for 2-3 hours, until the soup is quite thick and the vegetables have really fallen apart. Blend with an immersion blender until smooth and creamy. Makes roughly four servings if you’re having it with something else.

Note that this has a TON of fat — I thought this gave the soup a great creamy mouthfeel without any tummy-destroying dairy, but this might not be one to serve to fat-phobic friends. I know that cooking the bacon like this is a total departure from the general consensus of how to approach using bacon in a soup, but I love the layers of smokey, salty flavor this imparts through every bite. I believe bacon should be used like a spice, or a condiment — bacon makes everything better, and I like my food to be bacon infused. Mmmmmm… baaaaacoooonnnnn…

*Note: There may be risks to using nitrites in food, but there are definitely risks to not using them, namely the increased risk of Really Very Serious Things like botulism. Obviously, don’t discount those real risks; it is much safer to just use nitrites and use them properly. Making bacon at home is not one of those things that you can just kind of “wing” and have it turn out okay. Safe choices, mmmkay? Realistically, the nitrite bacon was so wonderful that I see no need to ever try uncured bacon again.

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