top of page

Top 5 | Cooking with Cynthia Thayer

Cynthia Thayer’s 5 Favorite Winter Soup Recipes

We asked Cynthia Thayer, author of We're Going Home, to give us some of her favorite winter recipes, and she delivered with five delicious soups.

I’ve been making these soups for many years because we raised almost everything needed and I saw that as a challenge. Some with meat could certainly be made without, but I prefer the meat. I never follow a recipe very strictly so feel free to substitute. I’ve made all these soups for our Wednesday Spinners’ gatherings and I often multiply by 6 or eight. I never make soup for four. I always make a big pot and freeze some or eat it for the whole week.

Cynthia Thayer

Pea Soup

I always make this after a ham dinner.

Place a small ham hock or a ham bone in a big pot with 8 cups of water.

Add 2 cups dried split peas and then simmer for an hour.

Then add:

1-2 large chopped carrots

1-2 stalks of chopped celery (or substitute with celery seed)

2 chopped onions

4 cloves of garlic

Simmer for an hour more, or until peas are tender.

Add salt to taste and pepper.

Remove bone from pot, discard bone and any fat, Dice meat, and hold to the side.

At this point, I use my stick blender to blend all the vegetables and the peas. I then add ½ cup or so of white vermouth or white wine. Stir to blend. I serve with garlic croutons.


Left Over Chicken Dinner Soup

The day after I make a chicken dinner, no matter what kind, I make a soup.

Cut as much chicken off the carcass and place in a bowl. Then put the carcass into a big pot, along with all the drippings, leftover stuffing, and gravy.

Add salt and pepper. Cover with water. Add a chopped carrot and a chopped onion.

Simmer for an hour or two.

Pull out the carcass and discard.

Here’s where you can get creative. I usually take any leftovers like mashed potatoes, squash, carrots, cut the veggies into bite sized pieces, and add to soup base. Add some soy sauce, a little cayenne, and anything you might have in the fridge from a previous meal. Sometimes I’ll put in some frozen peas. My father always said you first eat with your eyes so I make sure the color is balanced. Simmer until it smells amazing and looks good. Stir often to incorporate stuffing and mashed potatoes. It’s always better the next day.


Potato Leek Soup

Sauté a few sliced leeks with a stick of butter in a big pot until leeks are tender.

Add a 2 pounds of unpeeled, but scrubbed, chopped potatoes.

Add water to cover.

Puree with stick blender. Thin if necessary.

Season well with salt and pepper.

Add a little freshly grated nutmeg on top of each bowl.

Of course, this soup becomes vichyssoise in the summer if you add some cream and chopped herbs and serve it cold. This is a very easy and delicious soup for both seasons.


Borscht with Meat

Place a meaty beef bone in a big pot with some butter or olive oil. Brown the bone.

Add water or stock and a couple of jars of tomatoes or tomato sauce.

Simmer until beef is almost tender.

Stir in:

Half a cabbage, shredded

2 chopped carrots

2-3 chopped onions.

Simmer until vegetables are tender.

Remove bone and take off meat. Chop and add back into soup.

Either bake or boil some beets and then peel them.

Chop the beets and add to soup along with some garlic, salt and pepper, and ½ cup of acid: lemon juice or vinegar.

Simmer until beets are tender. Thin if necessary.

Serve with sour cream.


Black Bean Soup

We grow our own beans but you can get them at the store. Don’t use canned beans.

Soak a pound of black beans in warm water overnight.

The next day, drain and place in pot with 2 quarts of water.

Add some bacon scraps or diced salt pork, and then let it simmer with the top on until beans are tender. It could take a few hours.

Then, puree with stick blender.

Add a good dash of lemon juice, a few teaspoons cumin, a little coriander, lots of garlic or garlic powder, salt and pepper, and a good dash of sherry.

Serve with lemon slices.


Cynthia Underwood Thayer earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in British Literature before moving to Gouldsboro, Maine to be an organic farmer with her husband Bill more than four decades ago. Today, Darthia Farm encompasses 250 acres of recaptured pasture, hay land, gardens, and a selectively managed woodlot. Thayer has previously written three novels—Strong for Potatoes, A Certain Slant of Light, and A Brief Lunacy.

We're Going Home is her first memoir.

47 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page