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~ Sumptuous Beef-Barley,Tomato-Vegetable Soup ~

6a0120a8551282970b017d3d16a760970cMy relationship with beef-barley soup goes back fifty-some years, and, my own recipe evolved over a period of the last twenty.  It started in my mother's kitchen.  Her recipe is an old-world, Russian-style peasant soup.  It is flavored with bay leaves and contains onion, celery and carrots, but, it is absent tomato products or other vegetables (because my dad won't eat it if she puts tomatoes in it).  My mom never kept homemade beef stock in her freezer, and, she didn't use canned stock either.  She "made stock while making soup", meaning:  after she seared the beef on all sides, she added water, onion, celery, carrots and spices, then, as it simmered, it became beef stock (after the barley was added it became beef-barley soup).  It is simply delicious.

6a0120a8551282970b015392bcbb3e970b-800wiAs a career homemaker and cook, I enjoy spending a "free" afternoon making soup stocks to freeze.  Over the years, I've developed an assortment of distinctive stocks (Asian, beef, chicken, duck, lobster, veal and vegetable), each subtly flavored to enhance the recipes it gets used in.  To date, I've posted my chicken, Thai chicken, veal and vegetable stocks here on KE and they're all in Category 15.

Almost every time I make beef stock, I use the meat and a portion of the stock to prepare beef-barley soup.  When I use beef stock from my freezer (which no longer contains shreds of beef) to prepare beef-barley soup, I cook more beef in the flavorful stock, which makes it really rich, and proceed with the recipe.  Unlike my mother, I add diced-tomatoes and corn, peas or green beans for added flavor, color and texture.  It is simply scrumptious.

IMG_4115Then... about five years ago, along came Carol, my very close friend and neighbor.  One Winter afternoon she dropped by with a container of beef-barley-vegetable soup she had just made. What I learned that day changed my recipe forever.  I was surprised when Carol told me she does not start by searing her meat, and, used canned beef broth, which she seasoned with bay leaves, garlic powder dried parsley, thyme and black pepper.  In addition to that, she added V-8 vegetable juice, diced tomatoes and a bag of frozen vegetables.  It was simply sumptuous.

IMG_4089A bit about barley:  Barley is a high-fiber, high-protein, whole-grain that dates back to the stone ages and boasts health benefits like:  reducing the risk of coronary heart disease and lowering cholesterol.

It has been used throughout the eons in dishes ranging from cereals to breads to soups.  Pearl barley, the kind I'm using, has the harsh bran/hull removed and is then steamed and polished.  Barley comes in three sizes (coarse, medium and fine).  It has a unique, pleasant taste and chewy texture.  It can be used like rice or couscous, and is ideal for soups and stews.  That being said, 98% of the barley grown is the USA will not make it onto your table or into your soup:  it'll be refined to make barley-malt, the key ingredient in beer.

For the beef:  My first choice is a:IMG_4026

4-5  pound beef sirloin top butt roast, preferably tied, or 2 smaller sirloin top butt roasts

Note:  You can substitute a chuck roast, but if you do, be prepared to use a fat/lean separator to defat your soup after you remove the meat from the stockpot to cool (see ~ Step 4).  Then proceed with the recipe as directed.
















3 1/2  quarts canned beef broth (84 ounces), plus additional broth, only if necessary

IMG_41411  46-ounce can V-8 100% vegetable juice, plus additional V-8 juice for leftovers (Tip from Mel:  No matter what you do, beyond the first day you make and serve this soup, the barley is going to continue to absorb liquid.  I always keep a few small cans of V-8 juice in my pantry, and, depending upon how much soup I am reheating the next day, I add a can or two in order to return it to a consistency I like.)

2  14 1/2-ounce cans diced tomatoes

4  whole bay leaves

1 1/2 teaspons garlic powder

2  tablespoons dried parsley leaves

1  tablespoon dried thyme leaves

1  tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper

4  cups diced yellow or sweet onion

2 cups diced celery

2  cups peeled and diced carrots

1 cup medium, pearled barley*

2  16-ounce bags frozen "classic" mixed vegetetables, unthawed, containing:  peas, corn carrots, green beans and lima beans

*Note:  1 cup uncooked barley = 4 cups cooked barley.  Feel free to adjust the amount of barley you use, however, 1 cup produces a nicely-thickened soup that suits my family's taste.

IMG_4036~ Step 1.  Place 1 cup of beef broth in the bottom of a wide-bottomed, 12-quart stockpot and place the beef on top of the liquid.  Add the rest of the beef stock, the V-8 juice and diced tomatoes. Add bay leaves, garlic powder, dried parsley, thyme and black pepper.  

Note:  Placing a bit of broth in the bottom of the pot before adding the beef roast prevents the bottom of the roast from scorching while the mixture is coming to a boil. After you've added the rest of the beef broth, V-8 juice and diced tomatoes, if the beef is not completely covered in broth, add additional broth, until it is covered.

IMG_4046~ Step 2.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Adjust heat to a gentle, steady simmer, partially cover and continue to cook until the beef is very tender and shreddable, about 3-4 hours.

~ Step 3.  While the beef is cooking, prep the onion, celery and carrots as directed.  Set aside.

Note:  The beef stock is going to reduce quite a bit during this time.

IMG_4050~ Step 4.  Remove beef from the stockpot and place on a large cutting board.  Cover loosely with aluminum foil and set aside until cool enough to handle with your hands, about 30-45 minutes.

Note:  If you have used a chuck roast, this is point where you need to use a fat/lean separator to defat your soup broth. 

IMG_4079~ Step 5.  While the beef is cooling, add the onions, celery and carrots to the simmering broth.  When the broth returns to a simmer...

IMG_4086... stir in the frozen vegetables.  


When the broth returns to a simmer...

IMG_4105~ Step 6.  Sprinkle in the barley. When the broth return to a simmer, adjust heat to a gentle simmer, partially cover the pot and continue to simmer gently, stirring occasionally, until barley is cooked through, about 45 minutes.

While the barley is cooking:




~ Step 7.  Uncover the beef.  Using a pair of kitchen shears, remove the twine.  Using a fork, remove all of the excess fat from the perimeter. Discard the twine and the fat.






~ Step 8.  Using a fork, two forks, a fork and a knife, or, just your hands, shred or pull the beef into large, but bite-sized chunks and pieces.  My husband Joe did this for me today, and he used a fork and a knife.

~ Step 9.  When the barley is cooked through, return the meat to the stockpot.  When the soup returns to a simmer, it is time to ladle it into bowls and eat (or, read Cook's Note below): 

IMG_4114Sumptuous Beef-Barley, Tomato-Vegetable Soup:  Recipe yields 8 quarts.

Special Equipment List:  12-quart stockpot w/lid; cutting board; chef's knife; aluminum foil; fat/lean separator (optional); large spoon; kitchen shears; soup ladle

6a0120a8551282970b0147e18be0ed970b-320wiCook's Note:  If you have the time, when the soup is finished, remove it from the heat, and allow it to steep for 1-2 hours.  If you have even more time, this soup is actually better if refrigerated overnight and briefly reheat it at serving time. Also, this soup freezes great.  I like to portion mine into two-quart containers for quick weekday lunches or dinners.

The above picture is a peek into the top two shelves of my freezer.  Top shelf:  homemade soup stocks (Asian, beef, chicken, duck, lobster, veal and vegetable).  Second shelf:  homemade soups (beef-barley, shiitake mushrom and chicken-vegetable). 

6a0120a8551282970b0147e17039a3970b-800wiExtra Cook's Note:  For another one of my quick and delicious recipes, click into Categories 2, 20 or 22 for ~ Grandma Ann's Easy Chicken Vegetable Soup ~.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2012)


Jennifer -- What a lovely comment. Thank-you. You made my day! ~ Mel.

Hi Mel, I can't tell you how much I love this soup! I have made it several times since I first discovered the recipe on your site a couple of years ago and it is always a hit. I made a half batch the first time because I didn't have a stock pot...and this soup is the reason I asked for a stock pot that Christmas! Now I always make a full batch and freeze some. Your site is a lifesaver, we've never been disappointed by any of your recipes.

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