If you follow us on Facebook, then you might have seen the picture of the pigs nice and secure in their fence when I got home. That was a relief after rushing off yesterday morning. This farming thing is a string of learning our weaknesses - whether that be the weakness of my arms when carrying 5 gallon bird waterers or the weakness of our fences where we got a little slack in tightening the clamps (because it was 9:00 pm and we hadn't eaten yet).
At times it feels incredibly manageable. More than manageable! Look who can fix pig pens and get to work on time all in one morning! Then other times we feel completely defeated and start browsing realtor.com for a nice townhouse. But we push on and ask question and go to bed hoping it will be better in the morning; and it always is. And carrying the water buckets becomes easier and the fences become stronger.
We are at the stage of the summer where the garden is drying up. The shelves are decently stocked with jam, pickles, sauerkraut and jalapenos. The freezer doors hold rows of corn, green beans, and roasted tomatoes. Now that there isn't enough from the garden to put in bags and mason jars, it's finding it's way into a pot of soup.
These final vegetables represent the conclusion of much planning and labor. What started out as a dream of tender green in the dead of winter, became a dried out seed in Matt's palm, went into dirt that we watered and watered until we finally plucked it from the plant at the end of an hour that I could feel in the small of my back. So the green bean that clings to the spoon, gets scraped back into the pot and eaten.
This isn't a recipe so much as one way that a person could assemble soup. I tend to pick up a chuck roast from our butcher once a month or so and always order an extra lb to cut up into stew beef. Then I throw in some canned or roasted tomatoes, chicken broth, and three cups of whatever vegetables are at hand. Green beans and corn are always welcome. But Lima beans, green peas, diced zucchini, those last straggling okra - they all taste good.
The secret ingredient is butter. Don't raise your eyebrows. Butter makes most things better. It makes this soup better. I've seen someone use a whole stick, but a modest four tablespoons works well with the proportions I've listed below.
End of Summer Beef Vegetable Soup
1 lb of chuck roast cut into 1-inch cubes
1 shallot, or small onion, diced
2 cups of chicken broth
1 quart of canned tomatoes
three cups of vegetables (I used 1 cup of green beans, 1 cup of corn, 1 cup of green peas)
splash of red wine (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
4 tablespoons of butter, divided
Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a Dutch oven. Add beef and shallot (or onion) and salt and pepper. Cook until meat is brown on all sides. Add a small splash of red wine to deglaze meat, using a spatula to scrape all the cooked bits. Add tomatoes, chicken broth, and vegetables. Bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover, and cook at least one hour and up to four hours. Add the butter, and stir until melted and incorporated.
This is possibly better the next day and freezes quite well.