Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Mom's Vegetable Soup

If only I had known the reaction in advance...

Home made vegetable soup was one of our wintertime staple foods growing up.  Either my mom or my grandmother ("Little" Grandmom) would make it - a big pot of wonderful vegetable beef soup, served with a loaf of fresh sourdough rye bread from the lady at the Trenton Farmer's Market.  There was always a huge cut of beef that would simmer with the stock and vegetables all day until it was super tender.  I can still see "Little" Grandmom carefully eating the broth spoonful by spoonful, until all that was left in her bowl was a piece of beef and the vegetables. 

As for me?  I usually took as few vegetables as possibles and held out for the beef...

Seriously, it was a meal I looked forward to, and one that I have been dying to try and make.  And this past weekend I finally did.

If only I had known the reaction in advance...

This is a really simple soup to make, from the stock all the way down.  It is time consuming in that both the stock and the soup simmer for several hours, but not time consuming in that you are constantly watching  over it - just bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, and let it go.  Or, as I did, let the slow cooker do all the work. 

And consider this recipe a jumping off point for you; one of the great things about soup is that you can make it to suit your own tastes.  I used stew beef, but you can do like mom and "Little" Grandmom did and use a piece of chuck roast.  Don't like beef?  Use chicken.  Or turkey.  Or seafood.  Just make sure you make the appropriate home made stock.  For a vegan variation just use a vegetable stock.  Once your stock is made, just add your favorite veggies (and meat if you desire), and your favorite herbs and seasonings, and let it go.  It's that simple.

I thought the soup turned out great IMHO.

If only I had known the reaction in advance...

Adapted from a recipe by Mom


Okay, I am going to forego the traditional ingredient list here, because success to me is not so much the ingredients as it is the process.  So here is the process, based on how I made it with a beef stock.

1.  Make the Stock.

To a stock pot or your slow cooker add a beef soup bone (available from most grocery stores or butcher shops).  To that add 16 cups (one gallon) of water, one medium size onion (quartered), two stalks celery (cut into three to four pieces), two carrots (peeled and cut into two to three pieces), and one or two bay leaves.  If using a stock pot, bring the stock to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 3 - 6 hours.  If using a slow cover, cook on low for 12 hours or overnight.

The trick is to extract as much flavor from the marrow of the bone as possible to maximize flavor.

If you don't want to use meat just make your favorite stock - chicken, veggie, mushroom, seafood...

2.  Strain and Skim.

When the stock has finished cooking pour the stock through a collander into a second pot to remove all the veggies and bay leaves.  Cover and let the stock cool, then place in a refrigerator for several hours or overnight.

After cooling, use a slotted spoon to skim the fat from the top of the stock.  Pour the stock through a fine mesh strainer (to remove any remaining solids) into a slow cooker or stock pot.

3.  Make the Soup.

Now comes the fun part - add what you like to your stock!

For vegetable beef, I use about 1.5 pounds of stew beef, though I wish I had used a piece of chuck roast.

Then I added veggies:

2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 stalk celery, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
1/2 lb. fresh green beans, snapped and cut into 1 inch pieces
about 1/2 cup diced cabbage
1 medium onion, diced
1 (15 oz. can) diced tomatoes, with juice

I also added some basil - about 1 tbsp dried.  Then seasoned with salt and pepper.

Of course, add whatever veggies you like - corn, lima beans, cauliflower, broccoli...

Not using beef?  No problem!  Use chicken, seafood, or just veggies, depending on the stock you made and your own personal taste.

Anyway, once you've added your veggies, cover and start cooking!  For a stock pot, bring to a boil then reduce heat to low and simmer until the vegetables and meat are tender.  For the slow cooker, cover and cook on low for about 6 hours, then increase the heat to high and cook for another 2 hours, or unitl the meat and veggies are tender.

4.  Serve and Enjoy!

I hope you like it if you try it.  I know I did.  But my family?  Well, if only I had known the reaction in advance...

- one looked at the the tomatoes and said "Ugh!"
- one saw the onion and refused to eat it, but blamed it on the soup being cooked in the slow cooker.
- one just looked at it and said it didn't look appealing.
- one is 5 years old who has never liked soup, so she had a sandwich instead.

Then there was my daughter Helena, who matter-of-factly proclaimed, "Seems good to me."

Thank you Helena, for the vote of confidence.   As for the rest of them, here is what I have to say:


1 comment:

emme said...

Today is a good day for soup. It looks fantastic, and I feel inspired. :)