Updated by Heather in October 2022.
Bobbie Laughman added this recipe to Home-Ec101.com back in February 2012. I’ve updated it slightly with new images and my family’s adjustments.
Here is a link directly to the recipe for printing, but our adjustments are written out below. Using the Print Friendly option, you can delete images and paragraphs by clicking on them.
When my family makes the recipe with leftover pot roast, we’ll use Better than Bouillon to make stock and then start on step 4 by adding the tomatoes and skipping the two-hour simmer since the beef is already cooked.
We also kick up the seasoning a bit. We use a small handful of cloves; the original calls for one garlic clove. We use two large onions and increase the other seasonings to either roughly two teaspoons or a tablespoon, as we play fast and loose with measurements. Sometimes we get crazy and throw in some rosemary for good measure.
I have noticed that finding any cuts with bones, much less marrow bones, in them can be hard now unless you go to a butcher.
I found soup meat at the butcher, which fit the bill perfectly.
Also, barley isn’t easy to find in most grocery stores in the South. I found it in Lidl over with the dried beans. Maybe it’s easier to find in high-end stores, but we’ve got a family of eight, and with four teenagers, high-end isn’t in our regular budget.
Here are some more pics from today’s batch.
Have you ever caught a whiff of an unexpected scent that suddenly sent you back in time? Figuratively speaking, of course. The sense of smell is a huge memory trigger, and if there’s a smell that says “home” to me, it’s the comforting aroma of simmering Vegetable Beef Soup the way our mom used to make it. Packed with veggies and beefy bits, it’s a hearty full-meal soup perfect for cold winter days. Serve it alone or paired with fresh-baked bread. It’s sure to warm the spirits as well as the tummies.
I didn’t get recipes for all the dishes my parents and grandparents used to make, but I’m thankful this is one I made certain to get written down before my chance had passed. When I asked her for the recipe, Mom said she’d give it to me the next time she prepared it because she didn’t think she’d remember everything unless she was doing it. So, she made the soup, telling me everything she did so that I could write it down. Some amounts were approximations, so I’ve had to work at it to get it to taste right. Mom always made it the day after we had a big pot roast, saving the leftover meat and all the meat juices to throw in the soup – which pretty much explains the nearly complete lack of beef gravy in family meals of our childhood. Chicken gravy? Yes. Beef? No. The meat stock always got saved for soup. But that’s okay: this soup is totally worth the trade-off.
To allow for room to stir and reduce the chance of boil-overs, I suggest a 6 to 8-quart pot with a heavy bottom*. Thin-bottomed pots will cook unevenly and are more likely to scorch and ruin your soup. (I make the mistakes so you don’t have to – just a public service I provide. Oh, and don’t try to pass off the burned soup as “Smokey Vegetable Beef Soup” – that doesn’t work, either.) I prepare this in my 8-quart Tramontina stock pot, which I use for practically everything. Crockpot directions are also given, but you’ll need to make a smaller batch if your slow cooker doesn’t hold at least 4 1/2 quarts.
When I was working to standardize this recipe so that it could be made as a standalone rather than as a follow-up meal after pot roast, I decided to use beef shank cross-cuts because I could obtain them at a fair price, and they’re great at yielding a lot of flavors if you cook them right. Some stores label these “soup bones.” Feel free to use whatever cut of beef is cheapest – the long, slow cooking of soup-making is great for tough cuts of meat.
- 2 TBSP olive or vegetable oil
- 2 to 2.5 pounds beef shank cross-cuts, or any cheap cut of beef, preferably something with marrow bones
- 2 quarts cold water
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 large can whole, peeled tomatoes (about 4 cups worth)
- 1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
- 1 teaspoon whole celery seed
- 2 tablespoons pearled barley (not quick-cooking barley)
- 1 large onion, diced
- 2 ribs celery, sliced
- 1 1/2 cups peeled, cubed potatoes
- 16-ounce bag of frozen mixed vegetables (the one I used had green beans, peas, corn, carrots and lima beans - 4 cups worth. Use fresh veggies, if you prefer.)
- Set your soup pot over medium heat and add the olive or vegetable oil.
- Once it’s hot, add the meat, turning to brown it really well on all sides. While the meat is browning, open the can of tomatoes.
- Remove the meat from the pot and set it aside.
- Do not drain the tomatoes – add the whole can. Use a large fork or wooden spoon to smash up the tomatoes against the pot's side. Use your spoon to scrape up the browned bits created from the bottom of your pot.
- .Add the water, bay leaves, salt & pepper, and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat and simmer for about 2 hours or until the meat is very tender. Be sure you’re just simmering, not boiling. Long cooking at a slow simmer helps to break down the collagen and tenderize the meat, while boiling can make the meat tough.
- Remove the meat to a cutting board. When it’s cool enough to handle, cut it off the bones and either chop it up or pull it apart into bits. Discard gristle. Skim fat from the liquid, if desired. (I don’t usually, unless the meat was particularly fatty.)
- Now, add everything else. If needed, add water to bring the volume up to 4 quarts. Stir to mix well, then turn the heat to medium-high to bring to a boil quickly. Reduce the heat to low and put the lid on. I always tilt the lid slightly. (Because I’m paranoid about boil-overs, even on very low heat. Don’t mind me. Move along.
- Simmer for at least one hour. Two is better, in my opinion, so the veggies are quite tender, and the flavors can mingle and have a chance to get to know each other. Remember to remove bay leaves and bones before serving. This recipe makes 4 quarts of soup: enough for dinner with some left for the freezer. Make plenty and freeze a bunch for easy meals later on.
Like soup recipes? Here are some more good ones:
- SLOW COOKER SMOKED SAUSAGE POTATO CHEESE SOUP RECIPE
- FRENCH ONION SOUP
- SAUSAGE AND SWEET POTATO SOUP
- SILKY SMOOTH GREEN PEA SOUP RECIPE