Soup mix made from vegetables, beans, and herbs you dehydrated yourself is incredibly satisfying, whether you’re stocking your pantry or giving it as a gift.
When you have a supply of delicious home-dried fruits, vegetables, and meats, you can whip up combinations and meals that will make hearty entrees, soups, side dishes, snacks, and even desserts. A selection of these mixes is a tremendous boon in the pantry because you can prepare a wholesome, healthful meal with very little work and just a few added ingredients. Many pantry mixes also make great gifts. Finally, you can pack up special quick-cooking mixes to tote in your backpack (or car); they can be easily rehydrated and cooked at camp.
When you pack your own dried-food mixes for soup and other dishes, you can control the ingredients any way you like. Modify the spices to suit your preferences, or substitute one dried herb for another depending on what you have on hand. To make low-sodium mixes, use salt substitutes or eliminate the salt entirely. If you follow a gluten-free diet and are preparing a soup mix that calls for prepared chicken or beef broth, be sure to check the label of any broth you purchase, as some contain hydrolyzed wheat gluten.
A soup mix like the minestrone recipe featured here is best when stored in a sterilized glass canning jar, which keeps the dried ingredients from becoming battered and crushed, protects them from air, and also keeps out insects and other critters. Whether you’re packing a jarred mix for yourself or as a gift, it’s nice to layer the various ingredients in the jars so they are pretty to look at. For gift-giving, cut out a square or circle of colorful cloth that will generously cover the top of the jar; use pinking shears for a nice touch and to keep the cloth from fraying. Tie the cloth over the sealed jar lid with a pretty ribbon, and make up a tag that includes directions for using the mix.
For gift-giving, you may also want to consider small jars of herb blends. Any cook would appreciate such a thoughtful gift, especially one that was prepared by your own hands from foods you dehydrated yourself.
Minestrone Soup Mix in a Jar
For a gluten-free version, replace the barley with brown lentils and use pasta made from rice.
Makes 6–7 servings
- ½ cup dried cooked or canned cannellini or great northern beans [See note.]
- 1 teaspoon Dried Italian Herb Mix (recipe follows) or purchased Italian herb blend
- A few dried garlic flakes
- A few grinds of fresh black pepper
- ¼ cup purchased dried split peas
- 3 tablespoons dried diced bell peppers
- 3 tablespoons dried chopped onion
- 2 tablespoons dried celery slices
- ¼ cup pearl barley
- ¼ cup dried tomato pieces
- ¼ cup dried diced carrot
- ½ cup dried kale or other greens (large crumbles)
- 1 dried bay leaf
- ⅔ cup uncooked macaroni or other small pasta shape
- 1 quart water
- ½ pound ground beef or bulk pork sausage, optional
- 1½ quarts beef broth or vegetable broth
- Pack the Mix: Place the beans in a widemouthed 1-quart canning jar, tilting to make an even layer. Sprinkle with the herb blend, garlic, and black pepper. Add the split peas, bell peppers, onion, celery, barley, tomatoes, carrot, and kale in even layers, following the order listed. Tuck the bay leaf along the side of the jar. Place the macaroni in a small plastic bag; seal with a twist tie, then tuck it into the top of the jar. Seal the jar tightly with a new lid; if you have a vacuum sealer that works with jars, this combination can be vacuum-packed. Store in a cool place until ready to use.
- To Prepare the Soup: Remove the macaroni from the jar. Add the remaining contents of the jar to a soup pot; stir in the water. Heat to boiling, and then cover and remove from the heat. Let soak for 1 hour.
- At the end of the soaking time, brown the ground meat (if using) in a skillet; drain excess fat. Add the browned meat and the broth to the soup pot. Heat to boiling, and then reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes. Add the macaroni; cook at a gentle boil until the macaroni is tender. Remove the bay leaf before serving.
Be sure to use dried beans that have been cooked or canned before drying; this recipe won’t work with uncooked dried beans.
Dried Italian Herb Mix
Makes about ½ cup
- 2 tablespoons crumbled dried basil leaves
- 1½ tablespoons crumbled dried parsley leaves (preferably flat-leaf)
- 2 teaspoons crumbled dried oregano leaves
- 1 teaspoon crumbled dried marjoram leaves
- ½ teaspoon broken dried rosemary leaves
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme leaves
- Combine all ingredients in a small bowl, crumbling together to blend.
- Store in a tightly sealed glass jar. Use to season meat, fish, pasta, and vegetable dishes.