"Eternal soup": Would this work?

I’ve heard that in the Old Days, some families would have a pot of soup on the stove, all the time. Soup was ladled out every day, new ingredients were tossed in, and the pot was never emptied or cleaned. A given bowl of soup might include some bits of things that were tossed in a year ago. The soup was safe to eat because it was periodically brought to a boil, killing all the bacteria.

Would that actually work?

Well, I guess it depends on how you define “work.” Work for what?

Well foodborne bacteria can produce toxins that remain even if the bacteria is killed, which is why they call it “food poisoning.” (Although some of the toxins can by destroyed through extended boiling if I remember correctly.) So, just boiling it once in a while wouldn’t work to keep it sterile.

Would it be safe to eat?

Years ago, I stayed with a family who kept a pot of stew on the stove over night for at least a couple nights…ate the stew for breakfast and dinner the next day and the day after that. I ate some then, and I survived. Don’t know if they kept it going for a year, though.

I’ve heard this too, and wondered if medieval guts could tolerate stuff that would make us sick today.

Is it possible that they recognized when something in the pot was really bad? Maybe the toxic stuff makes your tongue tingle.

Would putting something alcoholic in the stew kill bacteria?

It’s still done, but it’s more of a gimmick. Le Central restaurant in San Francisco has a cassoulet on their menu that boasts of being pretty old, but I don’t know how they do that with the present sanitation laws.

The way I’ve heard it, it never comes off the fire - it’s always kept at a low simmer, which will first kill and then keep bacterial colonies from growing. If the temperature drops into the “danger zone” under 140 then bacterial growth is a huge concern.

My dad and his college roommates (all engineering or mathematics majors) did this with a Perpetual Stew. Have a few bucks? Buy some meat or potatoes or carrots or whatever. Sometimes it was beefy and sometimes chickeney and sometimes beany. He says it ran for over two years until some idiot decided to throw a box of raisins in. :pukey:

I think my grandmother used to do this. As my mother and her siblings - as well as my grandmother - are all still alive, I suppose it does “work.” The longest I’ve seen it done would be for about a week - my mom would buy a bunch of cow bones and boil those suckers dry.

What does it do to your gas bill? :eek:

In Jamaica they do this with Pepperpot Soup. Some families have it going back several generations.

I’ve heard it being done at college, by some people I knew who were sharing a house - they kept it always at a simmer, and the griping about the barley someone put in kept going for months.

As Why Not said, as long as the soup is constantly at a simmer, it’s not going to cool off enough to become a haven for biological contamination.

It’s not unheard of: Perpetual stew - Wikipedia

Never heard of the stew, but in Germany there is a drink they make…the name escapes me at the moment…but they have a large, air-tight, earthenware crock and they put the fruit of the season in it, cover it, and then the next fruit of the next season, etc.
After about 10 months of everything from strawberries to cherries to apricots and so on and so on, they have a nice large bowl of fermenting fruit.

They occasionally scoop some out, put it in another bowl and add some champagne and other alcohol…at any rate, it tastes mighty fine and there are always the newbies who only want to eat the fruit and not drink much…only to be surprised when they are suddenly totally blotto - as it is the tasty fruit that has the highest alcohol content, not the liquid.

Peas Porridge Hot
Peas Porridge Cold
Peas Porridge in the pot
Nine days old.

Ever heard of that one?

Master stock is close in concept. In some restaurants you can get a small soup where the liquid has been used to poach things for a decade or more. It’s great.

Obviously, the equivalent of modern convenience food.

A substitute for frozen pizza or tv dinners.

I once read that all yeast used to make lager style beer is descended from a batch cultivated at the Carlsberg Brewery, In Denmark. It used to be called saccomyces carlsbergensis -how do they keep the strain pure?

Wow, that’s a nice way to keep the shack smelling of home cookin’, too. I’m fascinated! If I didn’t have, you know, a life, or had, you know, a family, it might be cool to keep one going for a while.

i like making feijoada in my crock pot. The Brazilian black bean and meat stew is so good that I tend to dump more beans in it and keep it going. By the end of the week I let it go because of these concerns.