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Beef vegetable soup-- three ways for now and for later

Make and freeze
Make and freeze
Alyce Morgan

Cold? No. This isn't cold. Not in St. Paul. But it is a little nippy. Yesterday the wind blew over mum pots, pumpkins, and garbage cans--to say nothing of what it did to the oak leaves belonging to your neighbor. Time to get out the soup pot. Bring out the new (or old) root vegetables lying around the counter and in the frig. Invest in a big pot roast, throw it all together, and make something great for supper (and for the freezer or lunches) this Sunday afternoon. After you come back from a hike to see the leaves, you'll have the stuff that makes your tummy feel good and your bones all warm. And smell? Yes; it's luscious all over the house. Makes you feel rich to have those 12 quarts of gold bubbling away on your stove. A bit of baguette. A chunk or two of cheese. A glass of Cotes du Rhone. (It's still the weekend, isn't it?) Actually, you are rich.

Here's an easy way to make the soup (basic beef vegetable) with two variations: one for soup with a Southwestern flair and one with barley. Since this makes a lot, you can separate the pot into batches and try all three. Eat some for supper and try freezing the rest in one or two-quart containers. Take the smaller ones to work. Throw the larger ones in the freezer. When needed for supper, take out in the morning and run the upside down container under hot water to release. Place frozen soup (with a 1/2 cup water underneath) in a crock-pot on low for the day and come home to a house that smells like heaven.

Beef Vegetable Soup with Two Variations

  • 2T olive oil
  • 3-5# beef chuck roast, trimmed and cut into 1" pieces
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 large carrots, scrubbed and cut into 1-2" pieces
  • 1 large turnip, peeled and diced into 1/2" pieces
  • 2 parsnips, trimmed and peeled and diced into 1/2" pieces
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 6 cups low-sodium beef broth (plus a little extra to thin soup if it becomes too thick later)--purchased or homemade
  • 4 cups water
  • 28 oz can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 bay leaf, whole
  • 1 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1T each basil and oregano (You can use thyme in place of oregano if you're not making the SW variation.)
  • Tabasco, several drops (to taste)
  • 2 cups shredded cabbage
  • 1 cup diced potatoes (no need to peel)
  • 2 cups frozen, mixed vegetables
  • 1 cup any other vegetable (fresh beans, chopped zucchini, spinach, or any leftover vegetables etc.)
  1. In a 12 qt soup pot, heat olive oil and brown the beef in 2-3 batches. Brown each batch well for 10 minutes or so, remove from pot, and drop in next batch. Add a little more oil if needed. Return all beef to the pot and dust with 1 tsp black pepper.
  2. Add diced onion, garlic, carrots, turnip, parsnips, and celery. Sprinkle with salt and stir well. Let cook 3-5 minutes, stirring.
  3. Add broth, water, tomatoes, bay leaf, parsley, basil and oregano and Tabasco.
  4. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for an hour and a half or until meat and root vegetables are nearly tender.
  5. Add cabbage and potatoes. Cover and simmer until tender, about 15 minutes.
  6. Add frozen (and other) vegetables and simmer another 10 minutes. Adjust seasoning and serve hot.
  7. Cool completely before ladleing into storage containers for refrigerating or freezing. Leave an inch at the top of the freezer containers to leave room for expansion. Keeps two days in the refrigerator and 2 months in a freezer. (Make sure your freezer temperature is set at 0 degrees F.)

Variations:

For a southwestern beef vegetable soup, add 2 cans drained, diced chiles or use canned tomatoes that have chiles in them (in place of the 28 can of chopped tomatoes,), like Rotel. You might also like a tablespoon of chili powder added to the soup with the spices (no thyme) or a cup of fresh or frozen corn added instead of the mixed frozen vegetables. A can of drained pinto beans or hominy would be great. Serve with hot cheese quesadillas.

For a vegetable beef barley soup, add 1/2 cup barley when you add the cabbage; skip the potatoes. You could also cook the barley later and/or separately (follow directions--takes 30-40 minutes in water in a separate pot.)

What makes soup taste good?

Making soup that taste really good isn't so complicated. Most of the flavor comes from making sure you've cooked enough onions, carrots, and celery to give the soup broth the body it needs. Another place flavor appears is in the well-browned meat. Salt is critical, but I caution against too much salt if you're using store-bought broth or stock. A few drops of hot sauce can help; you don't need enough to make it spicy-hot, per se, but there's a dimension added (the vinegar in the hot sauce?) that deepens the soup. Tomatoes add much to soup, but remember they're just an ingredient. You're not making tomato soup. Other variables are appropriate seasoning over all (taste, test, taste, test...), not overdoing herbs or spices, and allowing the soup to cook long enough. Left overnight in the refrigerator, this soup matures (and thickens) and is often much better.

For best-tasting frozen soup, leave potatoes (some say carrots, too) out of the batch you're freezing and add some more when you heat the soup later.

I'd like a cheaper version:

Make the soup with lean ground beef (brown and drain before adding vegetables) or ground turkey. Boneless chicken thighs would work, too. Brown them well and chop them before adding other vegetables and stock.

For more info:

Fall fun in the Twin Cities

What's at the Saint Paul Farmer's Market now?

USDA Food Freezing Recommendations

Beef Barley soup recipe

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