Ale and Onion Soup

One of my go-to recipes for sideboards and lunches is an ale and onion soup; in fact, it’s appeared at almost every sideboard I’ve cooked. It became my go-to because not only is it a solid vegetarian option, but it also really translates well to the modern palate; we commonly eat one form of it as French onion soup. I originally found a recipe for it on Gode Cookery, then modified it to my tastes from there. I always omit saffron due to cost, add minced garlic, and use stout or some other dark beer instead of ale. These are my personal preferences for this soup, and I always serve it with crusty bread.

The original recipe from Gode Cookery:

Oyle soppes. ¶ Take a good quantite of onyons, and myce hem, noyt to smale, & seth hem in faire water, And take hem vppe; and then take a good quantite of stale ale, as .iij. galons, And there-to take a pynte of goode oyle that is fraied, and cast the onyons there-to, And lete al boyle togidre a grete wile; and caste there-to Saffron and salt, And þen put brede, in maner of brewes, and cast the licour there-on, and serue hit forth hote.

– Austin, Thomas. Two Fifteenth-Century Cookery-Books. Harleian MS. 279 & Harl. MS. 4016, with extracts from Ashmole MS. 1429, Laud MS. 553, & Douce MS 55. London: for The Early English Text Society by N. Trübner & Co., 1888.

The Gode Cookery Translation:

Take a good quantity of onions, and mince them, not to small, & boil them in fair water, And take them up; and then take a good quantity of stale ale, as 3 gallons, And there-to take a pint of good oil that is fried, and cast the onions there-to, And let all boil together a great while; and cast there-to Saffron & salt, And then put bread, in manner of brews, and cast the liquid there-on, and serve it forth hot.

As for a recipe — I’m not sure I’ve ever made a small batch of this soup, and I always buy the giant bulk bag of onions for a feast, because I use a lot of them… So the rough recipe follows as such:

Ale and Onion Soup

Ingredients:
Lots of sweet yellow onions, finely sliced
Minced garlic
Butter or canola oil
4 bottles of dark beer
6-8+ boxes of broth
Sage
Salt
Pepper

Directions:
Peele, halve, and thinly slice onions. Sautee with minced garlic in butter or canola oil, then add beer and broth. (Vegetable broth if offering to vegetarians, otherwise use beef broth.) Add salt, pepper, and sage to taste. Serve hot with bread and butter.

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