Friday, December 14, 2012

An apology - Beef Barley Soup

I have let the days get away from me. Between the virtual Advent calendar over on my professional blog and Capturing December on my religious blog, I haven't been making time to write here. I'm profoundly sorry! To make up for it, I'm going to share my easy-peasy recipe for Beef with Barley Soup today!

Assemble the ingredients
This is the world's easiest soup to make that doesn't come in a can (though it CAN be canned!). I make it in the crock pot so that I can put it on during whatever free moment I have, and it is all ready come dinner time. You can make it on the top of the stove, too, but you have to watch it more carefully.

2 lbs of beef
You want to have about 2 lbs of beef to fill a standard crock pot, and that can be chuck meat like I have in the picture above or it can be bones with meat still on them, or a mix of marrow bones and meat. Marrow bones will add a darker look to the broth, and a stronger flavor, as well as adding vitamins and minerals that straight meat does not. However, some children balk at the stronger flavor (and some husbands, too!) so I don't always use them.

You'll also want on hand some olive or other healthy oil, a large onion, a small turnip (and/or parsnip), two or three carrots, a potato or two, a couple stalks of celery, some butter, and your spices (I use salt, pepper, and Nature's Seasoning). You can add fresh minced garlic or a bit of garlic powder. As I didn't have fresh on hand, I used the powder, but I prefer it with real garlic.

Bob's Red Mill Barley
When it comes to barley, you have many choices. If you're going to can, use Bob's Red Mill hull-less barley, as it holds up better during the heating process. Otherwise, use what ever form you like! There's pearl barley (the standard in most grocery stores), as well as some colored versions (my favorite is purple barley, which gives your soup a really exotic look!).

All the ingredients in the pot
Turn on your crock pot and let it start heating up. Add a tablespoon or so of butter to the bottom. When it begins to melt, put in the meat (in one piece - don't cut it up) and then start chopping up your veggies. The onion, turnip and/or parsnip, and potato should be diced into small, bite-size pieces. If your family dislikes anything, dice it up really fine as it will likely turn to mush in the pot and disappear, thereby adding the goodness without the complaints. The carrots and celery should be coined into thin slices. Pour in the barley, and the garlic goes on the top, whether in powder or minced form.

As each vegetable is processed, put it in the pot. At the end, add a tablespoon of salt, a teaspoon of pepper, and as much other spices as you like (though don't overdo it, as it's easy to add spices at the end if the soup needs it). Drizzle 2 tbsp oil over the top of the whole thing. Fill the crock pot with water until it's about an inch from the top. All your ingredients should be submerged beneath the water. Put the lid on, crank the pot up to high, and forget about it for an hour.

Just enough water
If you're going to be home, keep it on high and check it each hour. If you're going out, put it on low, just to make sure it doesn't over-cook. Stir it once an hour so long as it's on high, and once the meat is fully cooked, you can pull it out and let it cool on a plate. Bones should be removed as well, and any meat removed from them and set to cool. Some people like to poke out the centers of the marrow bones if they haven't already fallen out but I'm not one of those.

When the meat is cool, cut it into bite size pieces and toss back in the soup. If it was not on low, set it to low or even warm, and let it continue to simmer until you're ready to eat. This tastes wonderful served up with a buttered bit of bread or a salad. It takes almost no effort to make, either, and left-overs can easily be frozen or canned (pressure canning only, by the by).

Simmering on high
You can also mix up the ingredients in this soup fairly easily. If you like cabbage, toss some in for the last hour of cooking. Turnip and parsnips are good, but you might like the deeper flavor of rutabaga, or maybe you have some Jerusalem artichokes to use up. Don't be afraid to experiment a little bit!

To make this soup on the stove-top, use a large stock pot and cook on a medium high heat (a 6 or 7 on my electric stove) until the meat is done. After that, lower the heat to a medium low setting (about a 2 or 3) so that it barely simmers but does continue to cook. The cooking times will be much reduced on the stove top. You could also make this in a dutch oven over a camp fire, or on a wood stove, or in your oven!

Beef with Barley Soup

  • 2 lbs beef and/or bones, whole
  • 2-3 carrots, coined
  • 1-2 celery stalks, sliced thin
  • 1 turnip, diced small
  • 2-3 small potatoes, diced
  • 1 medium-large onion, diced
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • spices to taste

Turn the crock pot on high and add the butter. Layer the meat on top of it, then add each of the vegetables as they're processed. Add your spices, then drizzle with the olive oil. Add water to within an inch of the crock pot rim, and cook on high for one hour.

Stir once an hour until the meat is done, then remove the meat (and bones, if you used them) and turn the crock pot to low. When the meat is cool enough to handle, cut into bite size pieces and return to crock pot. Continue to simmer on low, or turn to the 'warm' setting until dinner time.

Serve with a side salad and fresh bread!

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