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Basic Beefy Tomato Vegetable Soup with variations

about 3 1/2 gallons, one electric roaster full. Serves 50 to 60.

20 quart stockpot or roasting pan, or electric roaster
pans for browning meat
8 pounds boneless beef chuck, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
equivalent in lean hamburger, chicken, turkey, etc.
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons pepper
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons dried thyme
6 quarts water
4 cans (15 ounces each) diced tomatoes in juice or tomato sauce
PLUS 1 can (46 ounces) tomato juice
OR 1 #10 can stewed or diced tomatoes in juice for both tomatoes and juice
12 beef bouillon cubes (or flavor to complement selected meat)
OR equivalent homemade beef soup mix (see Ellen's Kitchen "Pantry")
2 cups medium pearl barley (may substitute brown rice or converted rice)
2 pounds potatoes, peeled and cubed (see Barbara's note below)
1 1/2 pounds carrots, sliced
1 pound chopped cabbage
1 pound onions, chopped
1 package (16 ounces) frozen short cut green beans
1 package (16 ounces) frozen peas
salt and pepper to taste after cooking

Minestrone variation:
2 tablespoons Italian seasoning
2 to 4 cups mixed cooked beans- red, lima, navy, garbanzo- added with cabbage
1 package (16 ounces) frozen chopped spinach
1 bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 pound pasta of choice
OPTIONAL 2 cups red wine

Campbellish variation:
dice carrots and potatoes in 1/2" dice
1 to 2 full heads of celery, washed, sliced with leaves, added with onions
2 cups carrot juice added with tomatoes
1 pound alphabet noodles

Southern variation:
1 package (16 ounces) frozen corn
1 package (16 ounces) frozen sliced okra
1 bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 pound elbow macaroni

Toss beef with flour, salt and pepper. In a large Dutch oven, brown the meat in batches in oil; drain. This takes about 40 minutes. Saute the onions and optional celery until golden in the same pot, add garlic and cook 5 minutes longer. Pour over some of the water to cover the onions, bring to a boil and stir to loosen any brown bits on the bottom of the pan.

Transfer meat, onions and water to a 20 quart stockpot or soup kettle, or roaster; add garlic if not sauteed, bay leaves, thyme, optional Italian seasoning, additional water, tomato sauce and juice, bouillon and barley. Bring to a boil, this will take about an HOUR. Reduce heat; cover and simmer 1 hour (1/2 hour for ground meat). Add vegetables except cabbage and parsley; bring to a boil again. Reduce heat; cover and simmer 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until vegetables and meat are tender. ADD PASTA, NOODLES, PARSLEY AND SHREDDED CABBAGE just 1/2 hour before serving. Add water or broth as needed to get the desired consistency. Correct salt and pepper. Remove bay leaves before serving.

Reader Barbara writes:

I do lots of large-group broth-based soups and have totally discontinued using potatoes in them. Potatoes get water logged and disintegrate in the broth. Now I use turnips or rutabagas instead of potatoes. They provide bulk but retain their structure, contribute flavor, and freeze well. Beef barley with turnips is great!