CHEF JEFF: One Byte At A Time — Hamburger Vegetable Soup

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to be able to make great soup.

That’s what I’ve been telling my friends and acquaintances for years when they’ve inquired about why my homemade soups are so tasty.

Actually, there is one thing that sets good soups apart from those that are just fair or mediocre: the stock.

Of course, you can always buy vegetable or meat broths at the supermarket, but many of those tend to be costly as well as loaded with sodium. Those are two of the reasons why my soups contain only stock that I’ve made myself.

The biggest reason, though, is the flavor that is derived from homemade meat and vegetable stocks can’t be found on a grocery store shelf.

The base for my stocks vary from soup to soup. It just depends what I have in the freezer. Sometimes, it might be water that I’ve saved from steaming vegetables such as beans, carrots or corn. Or potato water, the remnant of either mashed spuds or those eaten whole.

Then, there are the meat stocks. Whenever I fix a chicken or pheasants, which usually are deboned, the scraps go into a pot, are simmered for about an hour, cooled and then frozen.

Oftentimes, we have four or five containers of vegetable or meat stock in the freezer compartment of our refrigerator. And in the fall during hunting season, my chest freezer usually contains a half-dozen to a dozen containers of wild-bird (pheasant, grouse and partridge) broth.

Once you’ve decided on what ingredients to use, making soup ― such as the following ― is easy as 1-2-3.

Hamburger Vegetable Soup
12 cups vegetable or meat stock
1 pound ground beef
2 potatoes, cubed
5 carrots, sliced thinly
1 onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
½ pound green beans, snapped, or 2 14½-ounce can green beans
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 cup pearled barley
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup frozen corn
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon Herbes de Provence
Brown the ground beef. Set aside. Add the rest of the ingredients. Add the ground beef. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 1 to 2 hours. Serve with hard rolls or homemade buns.

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