cabbage soup

Beefy Cabbage Soup

At our CSA pickup this Thursday I got these.

And this.

And I thought, what can I do with a bunch of root vegetables and a head of cabbage? The immediate answer, of course, was soup, and I recalled a beefy cabbage soup that someone had brought me while I was recovering from having my son.  If I hadn’t eaten that soup, I never would put the words “cabbage soup” and “yummy” in the same sentence, but I knew from that experience that it was really, really good. I’d never tried to duplicate it before, but now seemed to be the time!

What resulted was rich and bursting with flavor and really, really good – just like I remembered!

Part of the reason this was so good, I suspect, is the broth, so this does take a little planning. It’s not hard (soup, after all, is basically just throwing stuff into a pot), but making a good bone broth takes time. You could just use some boxes of store-bought broth, but I absolutely guarantee you it won’t be as good as a slow-cooked bone broth, so it’s worth your time!

Also, bone broth is amazing stuff for a lot of health reasons, but one of the big ones is joint health! If you are on this diet for arthritic or joint related reasons, bone broth is an excellent thing to get in the habit of making. It’s loaded with chondroitin and glucosamine and all sorts of other things that people take in pill form for joint health – but since it’s in food form, we digest and incorporate it into our bodies much more thoroughly. Good stuff!

(Here’s a good article about the health benefits of bone broth.)

For a great broth, get some sort of meaty bones – in this case, beef. I bought a cut that had a lot of meat on it and round sections of bone in the middle, but the specifics really don’t matter. Any sort of meaty bones will do. Using bones to make broth makes it really (like, exceptionally) nutritious – it’s the reason chicken broth is called “Jewish penicillin.” It also gives the broth a rich, deep flavor and satisfying “mouth feel.” If you can get grass-fed beef, that’s obviously the best. Soup bones are usually really affordable, so they shouldn’t be as expensive as actual cuts of meat – even grass fed soup bones. Ask your butcher if he has any!

So, in the morning that you plan on making this soup, get a stock pot, pour a little olive oil in the bottom, and when it’s hot throw your cuts of bone-in meat in the bottom and sear both sides over high heat until brown. Then pour in 8 -10 cups of water (or enough to fill the pot) and let it come to a boil. Once it’s boiling, turn down the heat so that it’s just barely, hardly simmering, put a lid on, and let it go for at least 5 hours. The longer and slower the better to pull out all the flavor and nutrition. (If you’re using soup bones instead of actual cuts of meat, you can skip the searing step and just put them in with the water right away.)

This is what it looks like after it’s come to a boil – still mostly clear.

After a day of simmering, it looks like this. So flavorful, and really nutritious!

If you want, this can be done ahead of time. Broth will keep in your refrigerator for up to a week, and it also freezes well. So, next time you have a roast or any cut of meat that has a bone, make broth out of it and then save it for a quick soup at a later time!

Once you have your broth, it goes quickly. Get your turnips, carrots, and onion and peel and chop them. If you don’t have root vegetables and want to use other things instead, go ahead! Though, I must say, this particular combination was spectacular. Don’t be scared by the turnips – I’m not at all an adventurous vegetable eater, and the end result of this was really, really good, so go ahead and give them a try!

Heat some olive oil or coconut oil in a large pot along with some butter, and throw in the chopped veggies and minced garlic. Salt and pepper them, give them a stir, and then go chop up your cabbage. Just cut it in half, and then cut each half into thin slices.

And then chop the slices the opposite direction. Dice it up nice and small. It helps if you have a scary big knife like this.

Throw the cabbage in with the other veggies, give it another stir and some salt and pepper, and then go chop up your potatoes. If your white potatoes (and carrots and turnips, for that matter) are organic you can just skip the peeling part and just wash them well! The skin from the potatoes adds great flavor. I do suggest peeling the sweet potato though – the skin can get funny.

Throw in the potatoes, and salt and pepper it again and give it another stir. This is when you put in all that yummy broth that’s been cooking all day. Pour the broth (about 8 cups worth) into the pot, and then you should just be left with the bones and meat.

See how the centers are all gone? That’s because all that yummy, nutritious marrow has been converted into broth. Superb.

If you had a good amount of meat on your bones (like I did), take it out of the pot and shred it up. It should just fall apart with a fork.

Put the meat in the soup, as well as a can of corn, a can of tomato paste, and the spices. Stir it up, and let the whole thing cook for about half an hour. If you had extra broth and feel like you should put it in, go ahead.

Speaking of tomato paste…look what I discovered….


Can you see that? The generic store brand paste has just tomatoes and citric acid (vitamin C). The Contadina has…a whole bunch more than that. See that SECOND ingredient? (Second!!) High fructose corn syrup!!! And the fifth ingredient? Partially hydrogenated vegetable oil!!! Can you believe that? These are two things on the list of the Big Bad Four things to avoid like the plague, and they’re both here! So…another lesson in READING LABELS. Even in something as seemingly innocuous as tomato paste.

Anyway. After half an hour, the potatoes should be tender (check to make sure) and the soup ready to eat. Taste for salt and pepper – but since you layered each step with salt and pepper, it should be fine. If it’s to your liking, ladle it up!

Don’t be afraid of turnips or cabbage. Even if you don’t like them raw, you’ll love them in this soup, I promise. Both of the kids and the husband were incredibly enthusiastic about it, and all went back for seconds. That’s like a standing ovation in cook land.

 Beefy Cabbage Soup
(If you want a vegetarian version, you can just use boxes of organic vegetable broth instead of making the bone broth, but you’ll have to adjust the spices to make up for the reduced flavor.)

  • Several meaty beef soup bones, or a couple cuts of beef with bones in them
  • 8 cups water
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil or coconut oil
  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • 1 large onion
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 head cabbage
  • 2 turnips
  • 1 or 2 sweet potatoes
  • 3 carrots
  • 10 small potatoes
  • 1 8-oz. can tomato paste
  • 1 can corn
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp ground thyme
  • 1/2 tsp coriander
  • 1/4 tsp ground allspice
  • 1 Tbsp parsley
  • salt and pepper
In the morning get your broth ready (or use broth you made earlier). Put the meaty soup bones in a stock pot with about 8 cups of water, or as much water as you need to fill the pot. If you are using cuts of bone-in meat instead of soup bones, sear both sides in the bottom of the pot in hot olive oil first, and then put in the water. Bring it to a boil, then turn down the heat until it’s barely, hardly simmering, and put a lid on. Let it cook all day, or at least 5 hours.
When you have your broth, heat the olive oil and butter in a large pot. Chop up the carrots, turnips, and onions, mince the garlic, and put it all in the pot. Give it a stir and add some salt and pepper, and then go chop up the cabbage. Chop the cabbage into small, shredded pieces, put it in with the veggies, and give it another stir and more salt and pepper. Then go chop up the sweet potato and white potato. Peel the sweet potato, but if the white potatoes are organic you can leave the skin on. Add the potatoes to the pot, sprinkle on more salt and pepper and stir it up, and then add in your broth. Shred any beef from the bones, and add it to the pot along with a can of corn, a can of tomato paste, and the spices. Simmer for at least half an hour, or until the potatoes are cooked through.