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Make It Now:
Place bacon in a large skillet, then turn on medium-high heat. Fry the diced bacon until crisp. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate, leaving 1-2 tablespoons of bacon grease in the pan. Set aside in the refrigerator.
Saute the onions, celery, and carrots in the bacon grease until tender, about 5 minutes. Lightly season the vegetables with salt and pepper while they cook. Add garlic and cook for about 30-60 seconds more, making sure it doesn’t burn. (Freezing instructions begin here.)
Place cooked veggies in a 6 quart slow cooker and add the potatoes, broth, thyme sprigs, bay leaf, 1 teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper. Stir to combine.
Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours, until potatoes are very tender.
Remove the thyme sprigs and bay leaf. If you want, use a potato masher to mash until it is your preferred texture. Doing this will help the soup thicken up.
Stir in the sour cream and half and half. Slowly stir in the cheese a little at a time until it’s melted and well combined. Taste and add more salt and pepper, to your preference.
Serve bowls of soup with the cooked, crumbled bacon and green onions or chives on top.
Freeze for Later:
Method 1 (Uncooked): Place cooked bacon in a quart-sized freezer bag and seal. Place cooked and cooled veggies, broth, thyme, bay leaf, 1 teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper, and potatoes in a gallon-sized freezer bag or container. Seal and freeze. (Note: Make sure the potatoes are completely submerged in the liquid to avoid browning.) Package up the cheese in a quart-sized freezer bag and freeze along with the soup. Do not freeze the half and half, as you will add this as a fresh ingredients at the end.
Method 2 (Fully Cooked): Fully cook the soup through step 6 and let it cool. Place the soup in 1 or 2 gallon-sized freezer bags or containers and seal. Place cooked bacon in a quart-sized freezer bag and seal. Freeze together as a kit.
Prepare From Frozen:
Method 1 (Uncooked): (Note: You will need sour cream, half and half, and green onions to make this recipe.) Thaw. Follow instructions beginning with Step 3.
Method 2 (Fully Cooked): (Note: You will need the sliced green onions on hand.) Thaw using one of these safe methods. Warm over low heat in the slow cooker or on the stove top, stirring occasionally, until warmed through. Follow step 7 for serving.