HOLLIDAYSBURG - Not much can warm the soul more than fellowship, so to also enjoy a bowl of delicious soup seems almost a bonus.
The Free Soup Program of Hollidaysburg, known as Soup Saturdays at five Hollidaysburg churches - St. Mary's Catholic Church, St. Michael's Catholic Church, Hollidaysburg Church of the Brethren, St. John's Reformed Church and First Presbyterian Church - kicked off recently, and some of its organizers agreed to share some of their soup recipes with the Altoona Mirror.
Coordinator Eileen Snyder said the idea to offer the meal originated with the Presbyterian church. In 2004, St. John joined in and the others thereafter.
Mirror photo by J.D. Cavrich
Helen Singel stirs a pot of beef noodle soup at a Soup Saturdays event Jan. 11 at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Hollidaysburg.
Each church covers three consecutive Saturdays from January to April (except the Saturday before Easter) and serves a meal from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. There is typically a variety of five soups served, Snyder said.
St. Mary's and St. John's also serve sandwiches on their days. All of them serve bread and butter, dessert and a beverage with their soup.
A free-will offering is collected. Money either goes back into the program, or, if a profit, goes to help church or community members, Snyder said.
The Soup Saturdays are held 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
St. Mary's Catholic Church, Mulberry and Clark streets - Saturday (the church had its first two Saturdays on Jan. 5 and 12).
St. Michael's Catholic Church, Montgomery and Spruce streets - Jan. 26 and Feb. 2 and 9.
St. John's Reformed Church, 906 Maple Ave. - Feb. 16 and 23 and March 2.
Hollidaysburg Church of the Brethren, Penn and Hawthorne streets - March 9, 16 and 23.
No soup is served on Easter weekend.
First Presbyterian Church, Penn and Walnut streets - April 6, 13 and 20.
WFGY-FM, Froggy Radio 98 will announce cancellations.
The Soup Saturdays have grown popular over the years. The first year, one or two people showed, the next year it jumped to 30; in 2004, it grew to 90; and now, they serve about 120 to 150 people each Saturday.
Snyder said those in financial need and those seeking Christian fellowship come out. Leftover soup is sometimes given to shut-in members or to church members after Sunday morning worship.
"We've been very happy with the turn-out," she said. "The volunteers are terrific, the churches are terrific with doing it."
Readers should be just as happy to try these recipes, which can be cut down to serve less people:
Stuffed Pepper Soup
5 pounds of cooked ground beef
8 to 10 cups of diced cooked green peppers
2 No. 10 cans (107 ounces total) spaghetti sauce
2 or 3 49-ounce cans chicken broth
2 pounds (about 8 cups) of cooked rice or al dente orzo
Brown the beef in a separate pot with the green peppers. Place the ingredients in a roaster.
Add spaghetti sauce, chicken broth, rice or orzo. Simmer for a half hour to 45 minutes, add more chicken broth, if needed.
Makes about 16 quarts
20 pounds cubed, cooked white potatoes
3/4 cup shredded, cooked carrots
3/4 cup chopped, cooked onions
3 to 4 49-ounce cans of chicken broth
Milk, enough to cover potatoes
Parsley, a sprinkle for color
Cut up potatoes and bring to a boil until they can be pierced with a fork. Mash half of the potatoes for a creamy texture.
Saute carrots and onions until the carrots are soft and the onions are translucent. Drain the carrots after cooking so as to not make the soup orange in color.
Place the potatoes, carrots and onions in the roaster. Add chicken broth and enough milk to cover the potatoes. Add parsley.
Serve with bacon bits or chives (optional).
Makes about 16 quarts
(Old Fashioned) Beef Vegetable Soup
3 to 5 pounds beef short ribs and stewing chuck
Beef knuckle bone
Salt, pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon celery salt
4 bay leaves (remove before serving)
4 all-spice balls (remove before serving)
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup fresh parsley chopped or 1/4 cup parsley flakes
1 pound great northern beans (Boil two minutes then let set for an hour, or soak overnight. Drain & rinse before adding.)
6-8 pieces of chopped celery
6-8 sliced carrots
1 small chopped onion
1/2 head of cabbage sliced in strips
1 large can stewed or crushed tomatoes
2-4 pounds of frozen vegetables, depending on how much you are making. Get Vegetable Soup veggies already packaged that way with corn/carrots/string beans/lima beans.
1 bottle or can (48 to 64 ounces) of tomato juice (Campbell's suggested) (add more or less to taste)
1/2 cup barley (optional)
1 cup rice (optional)
1 cup shell noodles or alphabet noodles
Cut meat into small pieces. Brown onions in a little oil in a large kettle. Remove onions, then brown meat. Add about 2 quarts of water, onions, bones, tomatoes, cabbage, carrots, celery, parsley and seasonings.
Simmer covered for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Remove bone(s), skim fat from top of soup. Cool quickly and lift off hardened fat. Wipe sides of kettle with a paper towel to remove fat/grease. (This step isn't necessary if you don't mind a little fat).
Put back on heat and add Great Northern Beans (that have soaked and been rinsed); frozen vegetables, rice, barley and noodles. Add water and tomato juice as needed.
Remember to remove the bay leaves and allspice before serving. The longer you cook, the better it tastes. Refrigerate or freeze leftovers. Makes about 10 to 12 quarts.
Mirror Staff Writer Amanda Gabeletto is at 949-7030.