Cooking On A Budget: Beef Barley Soup

Monday, December 12, 2011

Beef Barley Soup

"I was raised on T.V. dinners because in those days, they were considered a well-balanced meal. And when I was sick, my mother fed me beef-barley soup and peanut butter sandwiches. That's about it for childhood food memories." ~ Lindsay Wagner

Well I certainly wasn't raised on T.V. dinners; it was all home cooked from scratch in our house. But my mother made this Beef Barley Soup not just when I was sick, but it was a staple soup in the cold weather months in our home. This recipe was one that both my mom and grandmother made and I learned how to make it by watching them. As a child we would have Friday night suppers at my Grandmothers house and if stuffed cabbage was the main meal, my grandmother would also make this soup knowing that back then I wasn't a big fan of stuffed cabbage! Talk about spoiled, huh?
Back when I first began the blog I cataloged this recipe from my youth. Yesterday I decided since the weather was turning colder and some snow was expected, that I would make a batch of beef barley soup while resurrecting this post and taking some new photographs. This soup is definitely hearty and filling and if you have a lot of mouths to feed, it's exactly the kind of meal you want in the winter. It's a stick to your ribs, belly-filling delicious soup the whole family will love.

Grammy Eva and my mother used to boil the shank; I prefer browning it as it adds depth of flavor to the soup. It's simple to make and is easy on the pocketbook when you can get some beef shanks on sale. This makes quite a bit of soup which can be put into containers and stored in the freezer.

You can elect to slice the carrots, celery and onions, however I use a food processor to get them nice and small. It is a time saver for those with a hectic schedule and makes this a soup that you could easily feed a toddler as you process the veggies very small.

The Campbells beef broth is very concentrated and flavorful -  I love using it in soups, stews and overall as a braising liquid. However, you can elect to use any canned broth or boxed beef broth you want.

  • 2 -3 beef shanks (ones with lots of meat)
  • 2 cans Campbells beef broth plus 1 - 32 oz. box of beef broth
  • Water - about 8 cups
  • 1 bag of white barley
  • 1 very large sweet onion - very small dice
  • 3 celery stalks - very small dice
  • 4-5 large carrots - peeled and very small dice
  • 1 tbsp. shortening or oil (approximately)
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • 1 1/2 - 2 tbsp. dried parsley
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1 tsp. granulated garlic

  1. Salt and pepper both sides of the beef shanks.
  2. Preheat a large stockpot over medium to medium high heat. Add in just enough shortening or oil to coat the bottom of the pot. Add in the beef shanks and sear each side to a deep brown. Monitor the heat so they don't burn.  Meat has its' own thermometer and when the shanks are ready to turn over in the browning/searing process they will lift easily off the pan.
  3. When the searing is complete, de-glaze the bottom with some broth, scraping up all of the good bits.  Add in the vegetables, the broth and water and spices.
  4. Cover and cook for about an hour over medium low heat.  After the hour add in your barley.  Start out with 1/2 the bag of barley. Barley expands as it cooks - so see if in another 40 minutes you want to add more.
(I cook my soup for about 3 hours and then remove the shanks. I get rid of the bones and fat and break up the meat and add it back to the pot. This is when you want to taste it for additional seasoning.)

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 3 hours
Yield: 10 + servings
Cost: $11.62

The soup will taste even better the next day and will last in your refrigerator for at least a week. You can also freeze this soup. I don't recommend longer than 6 weeks but you could go longer. Just be sure you have it in a proper container with the date on it.

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