A Superb Winter Meal--Vegetable-Beef Soup

When I was a young boy the meal I hated the most was fried corm mush. On the other hand the meal I loved the most was my grandmother's homemade vegetable-beef soup. She made that a few times each winter.

We usually ate it for a few days since she could not make a small batch if she tried. When she did make it, she cooked it in the 7-quart canner pot. For those of you who don't know what a canner pot is; it is a very large pot that will hold 7 quart jars of vegetables and enough water to cover the tops of the jars by a few inches. It is used to can the summer's bounty from the garden. I never measured one but I suspect it hold 4-5 gallons of liquid.

Back to the soup, like I said vegetable-beef. That means the veggies far out numbered the meat pieces. She would start with some really cheap hunk of beef like neck bones or shank bones and boil that with onions until the meat fell off the bone. After fishing out the meat and bones, she would cut the meat into smaller pieces, return that to the pot along with carrots and a few jars of home canned tomatoes that she crushed.

That would simmer for a while and then the other veggies got added, the heat got reduced and a poor child (me) had to endure those delicious smells for hours before being allowed to feast. Somewhere along the way she added fresh cut tater chunks to mix and then near the end of the cooking she added a few cups of macaroni or some broken spaghetti. The soup consisted of whatever she had in the pantry or freezer. I never liked Lima beans and still don't so thankfully she rarely put more than one can of those in the soup. Those she had to buy at the grocery since they don't grow very well here.

As a young man when I started making my own soup, I discovered that the cut up stew meat one buys at the grocery does not usually contain enough fat to really flavor the soup. After some trial and error I settled on a chuck roast, hand cut to pieces on my own cutting board as the best meat to use. Not just any chuck roast, the ugliest one in the meat case, usually marked down because no one in their right mind would buy it to use as a roast. And so I made my soup this way for years.

Along comes 2012 where chuck roast is up about 100% from a year ago to $4.00 a pound. I decided to make a batch of soup and revert to my grandmother's method so I bought some neck bones for $3.14 total (did not notice weight or cost per pound) and cooked them until the meat came off the bones. Then I weighed it. I got a little over 1/2 pound of meat. So my cost per pound of meat was $6.00 per pound. I suspect the butchers were a bit more casual 5o years ago about getting as much meat as possible off the bone but here and now the chuck roast is still the better buy.

I will share my recipe in another article sometime soon.

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