Iris Clark Neumann: Try a new soup with flavorful dill pickles

The soup simmers on the stove just before adding in the roux mixture.

The final bowl of dill pickle soup is garnished with fresh dill and served with a dill pickle spear.

Dill grows well in a pot on my patio and is available whenever the mood strikes to do some canning.

A jar of home-canned dill pickles, which are one of the main ingredients in dill pickle soup.
By : 
Iris Clark Neumann
Food for the Neighborhood

Dill pickles have long been a family favorite, but it wasn't until recent years that I resumed canning my own.

When we lived on the farm, my husband, Ross, made sure there was an ample pickling cucumber patch to create a supply for the pickling jars. When he needed to bring treats to work, he'd bring a jar of pickles instead of sweets.

The year our youngest son was born, I didn't think I'd be able to manage a baby on my hip while getting cucumbers ready for jars.

So we agreed that he'd pick and scrub the cucumbers and I'd can them.

It was only months later that he was diagnosed with cancer. Because he could not swallow pills, he'd insist on having a dill pickle or a deviled egg to help him down a pill.

After he passed away, and I was a single parent, I quit canning pickles and bought them at the store instead for my kids.

Then my youngest son became a gardener and started growing cucumbers. I never thought I'd use those old, stored away quart jars again, but now I fill several dozen of them each year full of fresh pack dills. When creating dill pickles one also needs heads of dill seed to pack in the jars to give them flavor. The timing of cucumbers and dill being ready in the garden at the same time is important.

The frantic need for dill at the right time brought back memories of sometimes running to Mike's Food Center in St. Charles to find dill. In recent years, I purchased a couple bunches from Amish sellers at a farmers market when I was in need.

But the last few years, when dill is in great supply, I freeze bunches of it in plastic bags, just in case there's not enough on a canning day.

The love for dill in our family has not just been pickles. Dipping fresh veggies in sour cream flavored with dill is preferred. There was a stand at the Minnesota State Fair where I'd purchase a supply of dry dill seasoning mix that one could simply mix into sour cream.

In recent years, the stand was missing. Once, I found that dry mix for sale at Cranberry Festival in Stone Lake Wisconsin. But now, I just make my own dip using dill weed I've dried during the summer from plants my son grows, with some finely chopped onion and garlic, plus salt.

Tonight, when I needed a bit of fresh dill weed to garnish the dill pickle soup I'd made, I walked out onto my patio and snipped off some of the ferny leaves.

On the farm, dill would reseed itself in the same garden plot we used for many years, so there was no need to plant it. Except sometimes the volunteer dill timing was off. Much of the dill I use now comes from volunteer dill plants at my bed in the community garden.

For dill flavoring salads, dips and cooking, growing fern leaf dill gives the best results. The leaves are fuller and the plants can be grown in pots, like the one I harvested from today. My son had started the seeds indoors and I transplanted them into a pot when it was warm enough outside.

A few years ago, my daughter passed along an online recipe for dill pickle soup. I tried it, but had noted a needed change.

Then, I found another version of this recipe included on the page of a 2019 calendar featuring Minnesota farmers and cooks. In a previous column, I described following this recipe and wondering why I needed four pans on my stove, two mixing bowls, a colander, plus many measuring cups to create the soup.

It took two hours to follow all the steps.

I believed I could get the same results with fewer cooking dishes and in less time. It was sort of like one of the cooking shows (that I really don't watch) where there's a challenge.

My challenge was to create the same soup in half the time.

And tonight, I did it. The result was very close, if not better, than the last time.

Yeah, dill pickle soup sounds weird, but honestly, it is good. As the first recipe I read explained, not all dill pickles are equal. I know my homemade pickles are not exactly the same as one might purchase from the store, so the seasonings in the soup may need some adjusting.

My homemade pickles also include a pickled garlic at the bottom of the jar, which tonight, I chopped up and added to the soup.

Dill Pickle Soup

5 to 6 slices bacon (enough to create 1 cup, cooked and crumbled)

2 cups diced carrots

2 cups diced celery

2 cups diced onion

1 1/2 cups finely chopped dill pickles (including a pickled garlic clove, if available)

1/4 cup pickle juice

1 1/2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

32-ounce box low sodium chicken broth

1 cup water

3 cups diced Yukon gold potatoes

1/2 cup unsalted butter

1/2 cup all purpose flour

2 cups half and half

1 cup sour cream

Optional: Fresh dill weed for garnishing

While browning bacon in a large soup kettle, chop the carrot, celery, and onion in a small dice. Place the vegetables in a medium-sized mixing bowl, then mix in the chopped dill pickles and pickle juice. Let it sit to mingle flavors during the time the bacon is finishing browning.

Cool bacon on paper towels and save about 1 tablespoon bacon grease in pan. Pour off any excess grease. Mix together the seasonings in a very small bowl and reserve. Chop the bacon, and mix it into the bowl of vegetables and pickles.

Reheat bacon grease in kettle and pour in vegetables. Saute and stir on medium heat until they are softened, but not browned. Peel and chop the potatoes while sauteing.

Stir the seasoning mix into the softened vegetables, then pour in the chicken broth and water. After bringing it to a boil, add the diced potatoes. Heat to boiling again, while stirring occasionally. Then lower the heat to a hot simmer and cook until the potatoes are fork tender.

As the soup simmers, melt the butter in a small saucepan. Gradually whisk in the flour, and cook a couple minutes until it bubbles and thickens. Set this roux aside.

In a four-cup liquid measure, pour in the half and half, then add sour cream to the 3 cup mark. Whisk together and reserve.

Stir the flour and butter roux into the simmering soup and stir until it thickens, just a couple of minutes. Turn off the heat, then gradually add the sour cream mixture in a steady stream, while stirring. If needed, reheat slightly before serving. If desired, snip fresh dill weed and garnish soup.