Celery Soup for my Little Sister

Even though my little sister lives far, far away in New Zealand I can still cook her some celery soup. Aren’t we lucky. Our mother became sick when my sister was only a little girl and I keep forgetting that she saw me in the kitchen more often than she ever saw Mum there. So she loves to read the recipes.

Our Mother used to make celery soup in the winter. Often for lunch. Not necessarily for the children.  Celery soup was one of her comfort foods. I think it was a favourite of hers and it surprised her to find that some of her children loved it too.

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We did not need an enormous garden at the beach like I do here. The surrounding countryside had and till has many market gardeners, (vegetable growers) usually New Zealand Chinese and they all had stalls on the side of the road that had fresh beautiful seasonal produce all year round.  We were spoiled for choice and never ever bought vegetables in a store we always bought from the family who grew them. And for a while we had a vegetable man who drove his truck around the beach ringing his bell and all the local kids were sent out with a list and the money in little leather purses kept especially for running errands and a string bag that miraculously got bigger the more he put in it.  He had a bell hung from a pole on the back of the canvas covered bed of his truck,  the bell gently rang itself as he slowly drove. This was when I was very small and I loved the vegetable man.

In those days everything was delivered, the weeks meat was delivered in brown paper  by a man in a stained whiteish apron, a paper was delivered twice a day, the mail was delivered by a man who blew a whistle, the milk in its clinky bottles was left in a special milk box at the gate. And I am not that old. This does not seem long ago to me.

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Anything else we bought at the local corner store.  There were no big supermarkets then. Every street had a little collection of stores, the grocery store, the butcher, the fish and chip shop and a chemist. Sometimes even a bakery and a tea rooms.  Every Friday we had  fish and chips wrapped in newspaper from the local fish and chip shop,  collected by two children on a bike. One to ride the bike and the other to sit on the carrier holding the fish and chips.  It was always a fast ride. No-one lived very far from a fish and chip shop in those days, we lived on the beach of a beautiful bay and the fish was always fresh on a Friday.

‘The Shops’ they were called and last time I was home the ones on the road we lived on were all still there.  Their big windows still coated in sea spray.

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When I was a young teenager and Mum had entered her decline, a small supermarket opened on the other side of the hill and Mum would dress and drive us there, she would give me the purse and I would have my list  and Mum would wait in the car while the Littlies (the smaller three of my brothers and sisters – my little sister was one of them) and I ran in to buy whatever I needed. She must have already been sick then.  But we all thought she was just very tired.

But back to the celery soup.  If your celery is not very fresh pull the little strings off the stalks. Mine was fresh so I did not bother.  Slice the celery into little crescents.  Cover the bottom of your saucepan with about an inch of celery,  then cover with three inches of water. It needs to simmer for about an hour until just soft. Add more water if you need to. By the time the celery is cooked most of your water will have boiled off.   You do not want to strain it as Mum always believed that the water stole the  nutrients so simmer it until the water is almost gone.  Take off the heat and add 2 tablespoons of butter, stir ’til melted, then add two tablespoons of flour  slowly – sprinkling and stirring as you go. Then add the milk or cream.  Slowly. About four cups of milk  (  I forgot to measure it) stirring and heating and adding more milk  until your soup is thick and soupy.  Mum and I made it quite thick.  Add freshly ground pepper to suit yourself. I have always eaten celery soup with lots of pepper.

Traditionally this is eaten with a cheese scone.

Hope that makes sense.

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I was working in the cellar yesterday, stacking jars down there.

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And came across these two bad boys.

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The peach brandy.

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So I strained a jar, tasted it and it was all down hill from there. This is so good. SO GOOD!

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And the most beautiful colour. I drank it straight and stirred with a precious rosemary stick.  (I took this shot after too many sips! you can tell! ) Delightful.  I have only decanted one jar. This wee dram is entirely too tempting!

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I hope you all have a lovely day.

A lovely, lovely, lovely day.

Your friend (and big sister) on the farm, celi

73 Comments on “Celery Soup for my Little Sister

  1. Some sad sweet memories today celi – but so glad you ended the day with a little drinkie of that beautiful brandy! In our little house in Bexhill we have plates like yours – mine are all mismatched, bought from the local charity shops and probably owned and loved by little old ladies and their families before being tossed away and then enjoyed again by us. I adore celery soup and agree..plenty of pepper!

    • In NZ we have many shops like that too, I used to take great pride in having not one single matching plate or piece of furniture. I can’t find those stores here. What happens to all the old crockery and silver ware and linen?Garage sales I guess or estate sales. Neither of which I have the heart to frequent. c

      • Yes, they are quite different. Our little seaside town still has an ageing population but lots of charity shops – apart from the white goods and the bed, all our furniture and corkcery etc is second hand from either junk stores, second hand shops, antique ships and car boot sales 🙂 It’s nice to think that the things we buy are being given new life and love and not ending up in a big land fill somehwere taking years to break down and serving no further purpose.

        • and also they are often solid, I hate to sound like someones gran but buying a brand new wobbly set of shelves with the backing made from cardboard is a far cry from the solid shelves we used to take for granted, i am always on the lookout for real sets of shelves. Made from actual wood. this is why I miss those old stores with their back rooms stuffed to the rafters with bed heads and dressing tables and all kinds of interesting things .. c

          • We have a ‘Goodwill’ store in town and loads of antique shops, so I do the same and buy all sorts of mismatched things!
            Celi your trip down memory lane bought a lump to my throat. Although we didn’t live on a beach, it sound just like my life growing up. With all the delivery people, Baker, Milkman, butcher, green grocer all coming up to the top of the hill where we lived. I can even remember the milkman one year bringing the milk up on a sled because of the snow. And the milk, if left out on the door step too long in the cold, the cream would freeze and rise a good inch out of the bottle, with a little silver or gold top hanging on!
            And yes Fridays was always Fish and Chip! I used to go with my dad to get them and ask for a bag of ‘crackling’ which was all the crispy bits of batter scooped out of the big fat fryers and put in a little bag.
            Makes us sound so old doesn’t it? Especially when we round off this memory trip with the words “Those were the good old days”!!

  2. That sounds like delicious soup! I always wanted a store cupboard like yours. I just expanded my demijohn collection from one to two. I need to decant my slow gin and add cider to the old sloes to make Slider. This coincides with a bumper crop of damsons that the farmer has, so I’ll need to put those in the other demijohn and add gin and sugar (sloes and damsons are fairly interchangeable) 😉

  3. Just laughed out loud at you discovering the 2 ‘bad boys’ and immediately straining one and checking it out! How grand that it is fabulous! And so interesting the memories of your childhood and beautiful, wonderful New Zealand. A fairy land, indeed! xo

  4. Oh I love this blog… when you came to the two bottles the “Bad Boys” I just knew what was coming next… a taster… oh dear and it sounds like it was as good as it looked… oh I can taste it now… it’s like finding a bottle of peach Mampoer (distilled peach brandy) at the back of the cupboard from last years batch…. oh lovely… not that I drink anymore, but I can still taste it in my imagination….

  5. Wow, what a fantastic cellar. Will you use the peaches for something? Your childhood memories were good to read – made me remember how many deliveries we used to get and how many shops we children used to visit on our own.

  6. I remember The Shops! Everything you needed for six-and-a-half days of the week, when families still did things together on a Sunday rather that yet more shopping. Supermarkets have an awful lot to answer for.
    Christine

    • The first time i saw a real supermarket i was 17 and newly arrived in the United States.. I was speechless with fright! and immediately lost! c

  7. i have my own celery so i will be making this soup. i will like it with lots of black pepper too. so, you lost your mum at a young age? me too, i was 9. my childhood was very similar to yours. we had a milkman, 2 brothers that delivered our vegetables (i adored them) and little shops for the rest. i still like to shop that way and avoid big grocery stores.

  8. I loved reading more about your childhood memories and your mum. I remember when milk was delivered everywhere, though not vegetables so much where I grew up. But when I went to see my grandma in her small town, there were no big supermarkets and it was exactly like you describe. Things moved more slowly, folks had jobs that they took pride in, and the end product or service was better, too.

    I hated celery when I was a kid, but have come to love it. I’ve never had or made celery soup, but now I must try it because yours looks beautiful and delicious! 🙂

  9. Hi Celi, what a lovely post to your little sister; I simply cannot imagine how difficult it must be to live so far from your close relatives. My Mom used to make celery soup too, she would actually purée the soup, about the time you add the milk. The Hungarians eat this traditional soup with croutons pan toasted with lots of butter. It is absolutely delightful. My Aunt in Budapest makes a similar version but hers is more runny. If we lived closer, I’d drive over a cheese biscuit I made last week, I put the stash in the freezer for just this type of occasion!
    Your pantry looks amazing! And that peach brandy sounds incredible, lucky you!

    • Oh yes, I lived in Budapest for 10 years and still make celery soup with croutons that way. And you can make pogacsa?? Fincsi!

      • Hi Mary, yes I do make pogacsa but not often, it is not very healthy! I make a few Hungarian dishes but I’ve made the recipes much healthier. I have blogged about them, please feel free to check it out.
        Where did you live in Budapest? My relatives used to live in Pest, on Benczur Utca, but now they live in Buda on Rosa Domb.

  10. Oh C! You will now have the whole fellowship hooked on celery soup and that photo of it in that beautiful cup and saucer is gorgeous! Isn’t it something how certain foods and recipes can trigger so many memories…what a lovely tribute to your Mum and little Sister!
    Since peaches are my favorite fruit in the whole world, I think I would die a happy soul if that peach brandy was my last drink on earth! 🙂

  11. Our cupboard is bare at the moment, although for different reasons than yours. I have been “shopping” my pantry and freezer, and they are very bare! 😐 Your recipe comes just in time, because I do happen to have just the ingredients to make Celery Soup and the cheese scones too! (GF, of course. 😉 ) Thank you for sharing the story behind your lovely soup, Celi. Have a blessed day!

    Q: Does Celery soup benefit from sitting for a day or is it best eaten fresh?

    • I have never let it sit overnight, though often I cook the celery, then pause and make the odd roux and add milk and cream just before eating. One of the advantages of the september challenge is that i am eating the freezer bare, which is good as the steer goes in soon.. c

  12. Gosh, that one bought back a huge amount of memories, I’m going to make that soup today. Thanks for the time I spent sitting on the back of someone bike this morning……..if only in my mind

    • you were often on the back because you could sit on the carrier, weighing nothing .. no hands.. and hold the shark and taties. there was usually more than one newspaper wrapped package, we had to speed, no-one wanted soggy chips.. have a great day little sister..

  13. I really loved hearing more about your childhood and your siblings. These are somewhat bittersweet memories, when you recount your mother’s decline, but you have such a marvelous spirit about you, Celi, and your resilience always comes out as the top notes of your melody. I admire that. And I also admire that celery soup! My mouth is still so sore, and because it really isn’t “soup weather” here yet, I haven’t been too tempted. I think this one did it!! I think I’ll make some this weekend. I’d enjoy the brandy, too, but I somehow think I’d enjoy it much more if I were sitting with you on that beautiful farm. 🙂

  14. I have fond memories of the “egg man” who pulled his wagon down the sidewalk selling fresh eggs. When he heard I was in the hospital (I guess I was 3 or 4) he gave my mother a toy to give to me. It was a simple cardboard of Jack be nimble, Jack be quick, Jack jump over the candlestick. You pulled the string and Jack jumped over the candlestick. That was almost 70 years ago and I will never forget his unexpected kindness.

    • What a truly lovely memory, If an egg man pulled his wagon down the street nowadays I imagine he would be mobbed by exhausted women grateful to have someone deliver the food.. c

  15. I too, remember the shops down our street, before supermarkets came to town; Mum would give us a list and the money in a little purse (with the obligatory string bag which seemed to expand far beyond it’s original size to accommodate the stuff we bought)! I love to hear about your memories from NZ.
    I’m keeping your celery soup recipe and will try it out soon, it sounds delicious – and I love your ‘slurp cup’! Your little sister will appreciate the recipe – it will no doubt bring back special memories for her too.
    Have a wonderful day Celi!

  16. I had a tear in my eye reading this post and the comments because of the joyous way you are able to congregate people who have similar memories, lost mums, sisters, love old crockery + furniture + food… and have an affection for the good old days 🙂
    I remember the excitement of hearing the clopping hooves of the baker’ss wagon pulled by Clydesdales, and the still warm fresh bread.

  17. Memories are so powerful when we can bring them to the fore, and like your mother’s celery soup, bring much needed comfort to those we hold dear.

    Thank you for this lovely post, Celi.

  18. The rosemary stick is the perfect finishing touch for the peach.
    It wasn’t that long ago – I remember milk bottle deliveries. We lived across the street from a family that owned a small grocery store – their daughter and I used to go with her dad to check on the cows or the farmers market early for produce – and we often stayed for hours at the store for hours. One big family: customers and workers.
    We loved when hurricane came in – we got to eat all the ice cream we wanted as it would all melt without power.
    We didn’t eat Celery soup, so I must try it. Different flavors of comfort always good.
    (Sorry to be so slow reading – the America’s Cup sailboat race has been on all week snatching time…NZ’s Kiwi only needs 1 more race to win!)

  19. The soup sounds wonderful, do you think it could be made with the stems of celeriac?

  20. Trust there was no touch of headache 🙂 ! No, the stuff would be far too pure! We still have a few shops here in the country and a vegetable truck with the bell going arrived once a week until a few years back: actually do miss those days! Have heaps of celery at home ~ should really make your Little Sister’s soup for the weekend!!!!!!

  21. Celery soup with cheese scones and peach brandy…and the Bananas Foster idea…my head is spinning. I need to live closer, really. The story of your sister reminds me of my grandmother and her older sister. My great-aunt was 15 with three younger brothers when my grandmother was born. They were very close. My grandmother needed surgery at age 57, and her 72-year-old sister flew from Connecticut to California to take care of her. A baby sister is always a baby sister. ❤

  22. Very good recipe and the contents of your cellar make me very jealous. Your description of life in NZ is wonderful, and a far cry from Jane Campion’s “Top of the Lake” which paints a nightmarish picture of the same place. Lovely post.

  23. Beautiful photos, especially the first one in the lovely white & blue crockery.

    I remember the milkman & mailman’s whistle in the morning and the rush to collect the mail from the letterbox, but as we grew all our own fruit & veg. my memories are more of my Mother pickling, bottling and making numerous jams & preserves from the excess of summer crops.

    Maybe that’s why I love your blog. So much of it reminds me of my childhood or my holidays on my Grandmother’s farm.

  24. That soup sounds lovely, I am so glad that the evil O word (onion) was not mentioned. I’m slowly convincing the Irish that celery isn’t nasty – hard work because locally grown celery is, in all honesty, a bit nasty. Too green too hard, and too old usually. Working on it!

  25. What wonderful memories. I have similar ones too, from growing up in the country.

  26. What I wouldn’t give for a bowl of celery soup followed by a wee dram of peach brandy! You’ve inspired me, Celi, yet again. I think I see a treat in the near future…

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