Tuesday, May 3, 2011

NOW it's Soup!!

This steaming bowl of Chicken Vegetable Soup has less than 100 mg of sodium and virtually no fat per generous 16 oz jar!

How did the Low Sodium Queen deliver such delicious soup realness?  By controlling the sodium that went in, she controls the sodium in each portion! It's simple math!  

So here's how she did it:

She started with 3 quarts of the chicken stock she made the day before, along with the chicken meat she had saved from the process. Thigh meat works great for soup as is has a bit more flavor than the white meat. She made the stock with no salt, so it is sodium free.

She brought the broth and meat to a boil, and to it she added about a cup of baby carrots (the kind you buy at the grocery to snack on for lunch), 3 fresh tomatoes, peeled and quartered, 2 large zucchini squash, sliced lengthwise and then chopped into 1/4 thick "half moons", and about 5 yellow squash, cut the same way.  That's it!  You can add additional seasoning if you need it! TLSQ added 1/4 teaspoon salt.

The chicken is already cooked, and the vegetables cook quickly, so before she put the soup on, she cleaned her jars and put them on to boil so she could can this soup for later!

Once the soup was cooked and simmering, and the jars had boiled 10 minutes,  the rest it easy!  Each jar is lifted from the boiling water and drained, and filled about 1/2 full of vegetables and meat, using a slotted spoon.  Then, a ladle is used to fill the jar with liquid, leaving 1" of headspace at the top of each jar.  Once the jars are properly filled, wipe the rims with a clean, damp paper towel, apply the lids and rings, and they are ready to process!

Fill the canner with about 3" of water and allow it to come to a boil while you fill the jars.    (Be sure to follow the instructions for your canner if they are different!) Place the jars on the rack in the bottom of the canner, attach the lid, and let the canner heat for 10 minutes while a stready stream of steam escapes the vent pipe.  This ensures there are no air bubbles in the canner that would prevent it from pressurizing evenly.

After the canner has vented 10 minutes, place the pressure regulator onto the vent pipe. If your canner has variable pressure settings (indicated by 3 different holes with numbers) use the 10 pound setting at normal altitudes.  If you are more than 2,000 ft above sea level,  see the USDA guidelines for proper pressure settings and times. Once the weight is in place, the canner will begin to pressurize.

The regulator does it job of maintaining pressure in the vessel by closing off the vent pipe when the pressure is below the set point, and rising on the column of steam when the pressure rises above the set point to allow steam to escape and reduce the pressure.  The gauge does nothing to control the pressure (some canners don't even have a gauge) but simply confirms that the unit is pressurized. 

Once the canner has reach the set pressure level with the stove set on high,  the regulator will rise slightly, and "rattle" or "dance" steadily.  While the regulator weight will keep the pot safely within the desired pressure range, the constant escape of steam can cause it to boil dry prematurely.  So, when the pressure reaches the desired level and the regulator begins to rise, lower the temperature gradually until the regulator "dances" about every 15 seconds- 4 times a minute.  This video clip shows what it sounds like.

The soup recipe processes for 60 minutes from the time 10 pounds of pressure is reached. Once the time has elapsed, turn off the heat and allow the unit to cool naturally.  Once the unit has cooled to the point that the gauge reads "0", remove the weight to reduce any last bastions of pressure, then careful release the lid, opening it away from you to prevent a face full of hot steam! Remove the jars with a jar lifter or oven mitts, and place on a wire rack to cool.  Voila!  You have low sodium, fat-free canned soup that can sit on your pantry shelf for a year, and reheats in your microwave in a quick 3 minutes!

You may also freeze this recipe in plastic freezer containers. 

Oh, and here's the math:

From 3 quarts of stock + vegetables and meat, we yielded 4 quarts of soup = 8 pint jars.

1/4 teaspoon salt= 800 mg sodium / 8 jars = 100 mg per jar!

Most soup cans give nutritional values in 1 cup servings, so if you used that convention for comparison, this soup would have 50mg sodium per 8oz serving!!

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