By Jill J Easton
Cooks have been making this wonderful soup since cooking pots were invented. It goes by many names; Slumgullion, Stone Soup and Divers Delight. It is a fall soup that presents an opportunity to clean out the freezer and refrigerator for deer, elk and squirrels and at the same time provide easy, quick meals. There is no wrong way to make it.
Stone Soup and more
A stranger showed up in a small village wearing a rock around his neck according to the Grimms’ Fairy Tales. The villager asked him about the stone around his neck, soon he was explaining that it was the magic rock that could convert water into supper.
One villager offered a pot for the soup, the stranger filled it at the well, when the water boiled, he threw in the rock. “Mmmm,” he said. “Some cabbage really adds to the flavor.” A villager offered one up. “A bit of beef would make this even more savory,” the stranger continued.
Soon the villagers were each bringing something to add to the pot. A delicious stone soup was cooked up that fed the village. Of course, the story had a moral, working together, a greater good is the end result. The real moral is clean out your larder.
Caldo Largo or gumbo was a by-product that caught on when shrimp were harvested by Biloxi Schooner Sailboats on the Coast of Mississippi. Potential hands would sit under the giant live oak trees in Back Bay waiting for the big boats to go out. As the schooners blew by the captain would yell out their offers. “Five percent of the catch and all the Caldo Largo you can eat,” was common.
A captain that had good cooking would easily get a crew. The soup would bubble gently in the galley all day long. By-catch, whatever wasn’t sellable would be thrown into the pot along with onions, file and whatever else the captain liked.
Diver’s Delight came about when scuba divers got together for fall dives. Hot food was a good way to have companionship afterward. Someone started it with a ham bone or other meat. Each diver brought a can or two of something. The safety diver who was left on shore for emergencies was also chief cook. By the time we got out of the water there was a hot, delicious, interesting concoction waiting. Admittedly some were better than others.
The time Fred brought a jar of Kimchee to add, no one wanted to be the first to try the final stinky concoction. The fermented cabbage (Kimchee smells like dirty socks that have rotted and gone rancid.) added a great tangy flavor to the barbeque beans, creamed corn and chicken mixture. The best part was sitting around a warm fire after being in 50-degree water, with good friends and hot food to share.
Slumgullion was my great-grandmother’s name for the concoction she fondly remembered making each fall when the thrashers came to cut their wheat. The traveling harvesters cut hundreds-of-acres by hand with sickles and stacked the corn or wheat into shocks for later grain removal.
The farm wives from the area would work together to make a feast that would give the men energy to cut in the afternoon. There would be whole hams, fried chicken, eight or nine kinds of vegetables, home-made breads and pies and cakes aplenty.
But the favorite was always the giant pots of slumgullion. They contained the last of the kitchen garden, plenty of onions and savory spices and the left-over meat pieces from the hog killing which happened a week or two before thrashing.
Everyone was fed on trestle tables under the yard maples. My great-grandmother Bertha Friedrich said, “There was nothing left for the dogs but crumbs after those hard-working men ate their fill.”
Slumgullion in our kitchen
Many of the items in our latest pot of Slumgullion bring back memories. There was dark turkey meat from legs and thighs of a 2019 turkey I shot in the Panhandle of Texas as wildfires colored the sky ocher. One-and-a-half rabbits that got caught in our traps last year, a coyote ate half of one before we checked the trap.
A bear roast from so long ago I can barely remember sending Jim out in his house shoes at dusk to rescue our neighbor Phillip. His tree stand was surrounded by an angry momma bear, three big cubs and a really irate big male that kept growling and popping its jaws. There are baked potatoes from the refrigerator and have no story to tell, some unidentifiable freezer meat that looked and smelled good. There are two sweet onions, a depressed and wilted stalk of celery, a lump of frozen bag carrots, more long-ignored carrots from the refrigerator, some zucchini, a peeled turnip that missed the last salad, jalapeno cheese dip, rice left over from meat loaf and lots more.
In every pot of slumgullion there are two secret ingredients, several cans of Campbells Cream of something soup (Usually out-of-date.) and a pound or so of Velveeta Cheese. The last two ingredients will meld everything happily together.
We usually freeze about half the pot in small batches for quick lunches, pick-me-ups, or to take along in a thermos when hunting or trapping. The other half, a gallon or more is a good excuse to invite the neighbors over. Served with some crusty garlic bread, salad, Jim’s wonderful sweet watermelon pickles and cantaloupe it is a feast indeed.
Try making a pot. No matter what you call it, the meals you make will improve your life. More room and a not-to-be-beaten soup treat.