Today's soups are packaged in many creative ways, including paper packages and Styrofoam containers of dried ingredients that are reconstituted with water and heated, small tubs and cans with flip-top lids that can go anywhere, and frozen packages that you simply pop into the microwave. However you enjoy soup, pre-made or homemade, food-grade containers made of several different materials are available to help you prepare and serve soup and to store leftovers safely and conveniently.
A variety of containers make it possible to store leftover soup for just a few days or up to several months. Plastic containers not only keep soup fresh in the refrigerator, but they can also be placed in the freezer for up to three months, making future meal planning easier. Soups should be quickly cooled and thoroughly chilled before being placed in either the refrigerator or freezer, as bacteria can quickly form in soups allowed to sit at room temperature. Never place a container of hot soup in either the refrigerator or freezer, as this can raise the temperature to a point where other stored foods could begin to spoil.
Tempered glass containers are attractive enough to serve the soup in, while providing both short and long-term storage options as well in the refrigerator and freezer. They are dishwasher-safe and can go right from freezer to microwave, which is not the case with all glass containers, some of which are sold with plastic lids individually or in sets. While they can be used to store soups in both the refrigerator and freezer, just be sure to remove them from the freezer and allow their contents to thaw completely before placing them in a microwave or stove oven.
Concerns about certain chemicals allegedly leaching into foods prompts some homemakers to select metal rather than plastic containers to store foods such as soups in. There are various sizes of stainless steel canisters suitable for storing both wet and dry foods. While the containers cannot be used in the microwave, they are dishwasher-safe and can be used on the stove top and in ovens.
Canning and Freezing Soup
If you are in a position to make large batches of soup for canning, the safest way to do this is with a pressure canner designed to raise the product's temperature to a level where all bacteria are destroyed. One exception to that rule would be when canning plain tomato soup, as tomatoes contain enough acid to destroy most bacteria, and they can be canned using a large kettle and boiling water, which is known as the water-bath method. Lacking a pressure canner, you can freeze soup in glass canning jars, as long as you remember to leave at least an inch of space at the top before putting the lids and bands on.
Serving store-bought soups is often as simple as heating up the contents of a can and pouring them into a bowl or adding water to dried noodles and flavoring them with a tiny seasoning packet. Serving homemade soup to company, however, requires a different approach, and this is where the soup tureen comes in. Once a staple in every home, soup tureens are large covered china or earthenware receptacles used to transport the soup to the table and keep it warm. Lacking a tureen, soup can be brought to the table in the pan in which it was prepared and served in individual bowls or mugs, or it can be brought to the table in bowls.