Years ago, an older relative shared this recipe with me. He had grown up in rural Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl years, when times were hard, food was scarce, and bellies often went hungry. His mother tended a little kitchen garden—a luxury when many neighbors had nothing—and gleaned from it what she could. Each summer she canned jars of vegetable soup, heavy with tomatoes, onions, and green beans.
By wintertime, when times were leanest and one could find little more than cornmeal and salt pork in the pantry, those jars of soup seemed like a gift. He described how his mother occasionally managed to find enough extra money for a little beef to cut into the soup. Those were the best times they had, he said.
- 1 tablespoon bacon drippings, or olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped fine
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 3 carrots, diced
- 3 ribs celery, diced
- 4 cups beef broth or vegetable stock
- 2 (14.5-ounce) cans diced tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 2 medium Russet or Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and diced
- 8 ounces green beans, trimmed and sliced into bite-sized pieces
- 1 (13.5-ounce) can kidney beans
Warm the bacon drippings in a Dutch oven set over medium heat. Stir in the onion and cook until fragrant. Stir in the ground beef, breaking it up with a wooden spoon until browned and cooked through.
Stir in the salt, carrots, and celery, and cook with the meat for about 3 minutes. Then, stir in the broth, tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, and potatoes. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then turn the heat down to medium-low and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. Stir in the green beans and kidney beans, and continue cooking about 10 to 15 minutes longer, until the vegetables are tender.
Serve hot and store any leftovers in a tightly sealed container in the fridge for up to 5 days.