Monday, March 15, 2010

Pickle Soup

Yes, there is such a thing as pickle soup, although cookbook author Ginny McDonald suggests serving this as an appetizer, in a cup eaten before the meal.

The recipe comes from Ginny's cookbook, "Recipes to Warm the Heart: Soups, Stews, and Breads." She has also written two others, "Recipes from the Heart" and "Recipes from the Heart of Montana." All three books contain original recipes, most from the kitchens of her grandmother and great grandmother.

Ginny says it was a lot of work translating the recipes for modern cooks. After long experimentation she decided that "butter the size of an egg" meant about 1/3 cup and a "teacup" of something measured out to 1/2 cup.

Some recipes came from other sources through Ginny's unrelenting efforts to discover how to make things she has enjoyed eating while dining out. The Dill Pickle Soup, for example, was originally savored many years ago at a gourmet restaurant in Oregon.

Over occasional protests from her then-teenagers, Ginny persevered to test each recipe on her family until it met unanimous approval. Because of this, I can highly recommend these as tried-and-true recipes that come out tasty every time I make something.

And all ingredients are things you are likely find in your own kitchen; if not, feel free to substitute.

"Be creative," Ginny urges. "I do that a lot. If I run out of this or that, I use something else."

Ginny also recommends finding ways to cut back on trips to the store. One tip she finds helpful is to buy bulk cheese, shred it, and store it in serving-size bags in the freezer.

"Through the years you kind of learn all these tricks," Ginny says.

One trick you'll like is to make this soup and watch the expression on your guests' faces. "Surprise" is the key word here. I took a pot to my church's Lenten Soup and Bread night, and everyone agreed it tastes way better than it sounds. I describe the flavor as heavy on the dill but not "pickley."

[In the following recipe, my comments are in brackets.]

Dill Pickle Soup
This soup sounds unusual, but it is a delicious surprise.
Traditionally, a winter soup, it can be served all year.

1 cup butter [yes, this is a lot of butter, but Ginny insists it is necessary for the roux that is the basis of the soup; you can experiment with less.]
1/2 cup flour
1 - 1/2 quarts chicken broth
1 - 1/2 cups dill pickles, shredded or finely chopped [about 3 large pickles]
1 cup white wine
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons vinegar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
3 to 4 teaspoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon dill weed
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
2 bay leaves [in my opinion, optional]
2 cups warm milk
Dash of green food coloring [I left this out, preferring the natural yellow color, flecked with dark green dill]

In a large kettle, melt butter. Add flour; cook and stir until bubbly. Gradually add broth. [Use a whisk to incorporate flour and broth. Keep those lumps away!] Add next 12 ingredients and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat; add milk. Remove bay leaves. Add food coloring and garnish with croutons. [In the photo, you see my clever idea was to add more pickles.]

Yield: 2 quarts, or 8 to 10 servings.

Find all of Ginny's cookbooks at:

2821 2nd Avenue North
Billings, Mont. 59101
(406) 248-1722

Note: Neecee's is a fascinating shop filled with unusual women's clothing and accessories. You'll need to ask for the cookbooks, which they are happy to show you, since they are selling them as a special favor to Ginny.


  1. Finally, the long-awaited recipe for pickle soup. I bet it's just as good as the surprising garlic cookies. I'm kidding. I'm slightly surprised by the sugar in the recipe, and personally, I'd probably leave that out, but this is something I will try because I love pickles. Bubbie's is my favorite; she includes an interesting history of pickles on her site:
    She has a page of recipes on her site, and two are for pickle soup, though I'm sure the one above is just as good.
    Boy, I sure can go on and on about pickles, but this is your blog, Mary, so I'll stop. Yay for pickles.

  2. I'll check out Bubbie ~ pickles as a cooking ingredient are underrated!

    Just like a pinch of salt brings out sweetness in dessert recipes, so the pickles are rather tart and the bit of sugar counteracts that.

    As for the butter, I think it safe to use only half a cup since I understand that traditionally roux uses equal parts fat and flour. But I haven't tried that in this recipe, so there may be a reason to use the full cup. As always, happy experimenting!