So, you’re making a batch of the Frugal Gourmet’s classic Potato Soup with Rivels. It calls for a quart of chicken broth and a quart of milk. Your pantry holds several cans of chicken broth and in your fridge there’s a gallon of milk. You have several measuring cups and can do basic math easily enough, but you can’t remember how much a quart is in cups and ounces.
First of all, believe me when I tell you that the Frugal Gourmet’s recipe for Potato Soup with Rivels is the best you can ever hope to make. It is more like the pot of soup my sweet grandmother would make on a cold winter’s day than any other I found in several years of searching. No recipe exists for hers, of course, because she didn’t need one.
Whatever you do, be sure to include the rivels. There is at least one page on the interwebs that will suggest leaving them out because it makes the soup lumpy. A few of years ago while in the midst of moving with several boxes yet unpacked, I could not find my copy of this particular cookbook, yet I wanted to make the soup. It is an easy enough recipe to remember, but I had not made it in a while and so wanted to double-check the proportion of liquid to potatoes.
I found the recipe online but was scratching my head over the notion of leaving out the rivels. For every single individual in my family and extended family, the rivels are practically the point of the soup. It’s what makes it like Grandma’s. If I want a Cream of Potato soup that is smooth with no lumps, I will not go to the recipe found on page 137 of The Frugal Gourmet Cooks American. Its title has the words, “with Rivels,” and its description begins with, “This is a potato-dumpling soup.” Dumplings are, by nature, lumpy.
One change I do make to the recipe is to omit the chopped boiled egg and parsley garnish. Grandma never added anything like that, but I’m sure that it tastes great for those of you who are not trying to make yours just like hers.
Knowing Your Conversions
It is extremely helpful to know your cooking measurement conversions without having to look them up in the back of a cook book, grab a calculator, or even count on your fingers. Hopefully the information as it is presented here helps you gain that handy ability.
However, I would never suggest that not knowing your basic conversions is a sign of stupidity or lack of learning, for it is not. Quite recently, in my very own living room, someone who holds a degree in physics with a minor in mathematics had a confused look on his face as I quickly reviewed some basic conversions I was doing on a recipe. He said, “Wait, a cup is eight ounces? I thought it was six.” Since we learn all of this in basic math class, and he’s supposed to be capable of teaching basic math and science, I was so shocked that my jaw literally dropped. Then we both laughed, of course.
Familiarity with standard weights and measures comes not so much from being a math whiz or through extensive efforts at memorization as it does with use. In a standard laboratory, my friend’s beakers, tubes, or whatever they’re called are probably not marked in cups and ounces. The measuring utensils in my kitchen are, and I use them every single day, as I have for years. There’s always a chance I’ll have a momentary brain blank, but usually I can give you any cooking conversion in a split second, not because I’m brilliant but because I’m always using it.
It comes in pints?
Fans of the Lord of the Rings film trilogy will fondly remember the scene at the tavern when Pippin says to Merry, “It comes in pints?” How many could quickly rattle off how many cups and ounces Merry had in his stein? Probably fewer than you would expect.
We don’t cook much these days. So much of our food comes in ready made versions to pop into an oven or microwave that it is far easier to eat conveniently. I do it sometimes, too. I enjoy cooking, prefer fresh food to fast, and yet I’ve totally given up on ever making macaroni and cheese that beats the one made by Stouffer’s. It tastes exactly like the recipe my aunt used to make, which is the definition of the dish for my family, so why dig up the recipe and go to all that trouble?
It is no wonder, then, that more and more people who do make the occasional attempt to cook are looking up conversions as they go. It is a very simple rule – use it or lose it. When you do not employ the knowledge you have of something on a regular basis, that knowledge is soon set aside by the brain so that something more frequently used can be accessed more quickly.
That is why, before getting to the “How Much” section, we are going to review just about every basic measurement we use in the American kitchen.
When you sit back and think about it, they all fall together beautifully, nesting in groups of 3, 4, and 12, or breaking down by eights from 128, 64, 32, 16, and to the basic cup of 8. Pure perfection that has enough pieces to maintain the versatility every cook needs with the commonality of a theme that can be easily remembered.
- The basic unit is the cup. It holds 8 ounces, which are frequently broken down into three-quarter, half, and quarter cups of 6, 4, and 2 ounces, respectively.
- When we get to the quarter cup and need to divide further, the tablespoon comes into play. Four tablespoons equal one quarter cup, or two ounces.
- Two tablespoons, then, equal one measured ounce by volume and one tablespoon is the half ounce.
Do you see how quickly and easily we came to the half ounce from the full 8 ounce cup? It all fits together so well, like those little Russian dolls.
Let’s quickly review these in a table for easy reference:
We have just worked out basic conversions in ounces from a cup to a tablespoon. Now we are going to work up from the cup to find a quart in both cups and ounces.
The first part is as easy as remembering that there are, “two cups to a pint, two pints to a quart.” That’s two times two cups, or four cups, in a quart. A cup measure holds 8 ounces, so it’s four times eight to get ounces in a quart.
That means, there are four cups in a quart, or 32 fluid ounces.
If we were to continue our upward climb, we would say, “two cups to a pint, two pints to a quart, and four quarts to a gallon.” That’s right, just like the quarter coin is a fourth of a dollar, the quart measure is a fourth of a gallon.
Thirds and Such
Since we are on the topic of conversions, let’s briefly mention the troublesome thirds. If you’ve looked at your measuring cup lately, you know that it is not only marked in the neat little halves and quarters we just discussed but also in these odd measures called thirds.
Dividing 2/3 cup in half is easy – it is 1/3 cup. What about dividing one-third in half or two-thirds into three? We came to that dilemma a couple of weeks ago with a cookie recipe. You can find all you need to know about working with thirds of cups right there.
Making the Soup
Back to our recipe for Potato Soup with Rivels, you know that you need to measure out four cups each of the broth and the milk. Measuring out the milk is easy if you have a quart or larger jug of it in the refrigerator. You have to know, too, if you have enough broth.
If you purchased the 32 ounce paper carton, you have about one quart of broth. The product is sold by weight, not volume, and so the nutrition information panel will tell you that a serving is one cup and there are about four servings in the carton. When you measure it out, you may be a tad short of the full four cups but it will not be enough to trouble the soup.
When it comes to a can, however, you no longer get a 16 ounce product but a can weight of 14.5 ounces. On the back of this can, you will see the same serving size of one cup with a total servings of “about 2.” However, the can contains approximately 1-3/4 cups. Two cans will be 3-1/2 cups, and that half cup deficit might trouble your soup.
Your choice here is to make up that shortage with water, or open a third can of broth. If I have it on hand, I usually go for the third can. The remaining broth can be used in another recipe. Try it with mashed potatoes, in a gravy or sauce, or with making just about any stir fry or fried rice dish.
One last note about the recipe: The wooden fork he specifies does make a difference. To stir up the rivels in their own bowl, use a standard eating utensil fork, but to stir as you drop them into the soup, you want something like this.
Instructions for Potato Soup with Rivels (ingredient list appears above).
When cooking, we often come to a moment when we need to know and understand our basic measuring conversions. Remembering how much a quart is in cups and ounces is one of the easier ones, and I hope this article gave you a way to commit it to memory. The best memorization too, however, is putting it into practice, so cook more from scratch, measuring out every little thing. I know you will enjoy it. Thanks for reading!
Oh, and if you decide to try the potato soup recipe, don’t pay attention to what that guy says at the link. The rivels are what takes the soup over the top. All my grandmothers used them, and now I use them, so they’ve got to be good.