A Shenandoah Valley Vegetable Soup: But is it “Mennonite” or “Amish”?
What kind of vegetable soup or stew do you like?
If you’re like me, when the autumn breezes send gold and brown leaves to the ground and a cool spell arrives, I get really hungry for some thick and hearty homemade vegetable soup, as made by my husband’s family.
When I first began my blog in 2013, I shared my husband’s family’s method of making homemade vegetable soup, which I learned as a new bride in 1976. My Mennonite mother made a vegetable stew but my husband thought it didn’t have nearly enough other ingredients in it! You can read that story at my blog. But my husband’s family is not Mennonite, so I was curious; did his favorite soup have “Mennonite” roots, or was it more of a traditional Shenandoah Valley recipe? Our beautiful valley is full of many different kinds of Mennonites.
Many Mennonite cooks (and others!) across North America consider Mennonite Country-Style Recipes & Kitchen Secrets: The prize collection of a Shenandoah Valley Cook as one of their basic go-to cookbooks. A Mennonite woman, Esther H. Shank, (who lives not far from me in Rockingham County, Virginia), assembled it back in 1980s. She dedicated it to her three daughters to share “all the practical assistance that I can, to help them be successful in their cooking, and to enjoy it as well.”
It was admirably ambitious then and includes more than 1000 recipes and hundreds of hints she collected or perfected over 25 years. Esther was also one of the persons who endorsed my book, Whatever Happened to Dinner: Recipes and Reflections for Family Mealtime.
I was pleased to discover in checking Mennonite Country-Style Recipes & Kitchen Secrets—that it has both a long version similar to my husband’s family’s favorite vegetable soup, and also a handy low calorie short-cut version. I’ll share here my variation as used by the Davis family, and invite you to check out Esther’s cookbook if you care to!
Davis Vegetable Soup
(a variation on Esther Shank’s Mennonite recipe)
1 lb. stew meat cubed, or approx. 2 cups leftover roast beef
1 tablespoon olive or vegetable oil
3 large potatoes
1/4 head cabbage
2 stalks celery with leaves
1 quart canned tomatoes
beef or ham bone (optional)
1 can 10 ¾ ounces beef broth plus 1 can water
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1 quart (approx.) canned or frozen vegetables, or leftovers you have on hand or frozen: corn, peas, green beans, lima beans
1 cup elbow macaroni
In 5 quart Dutch oven or other large kettle, brown diced stew meat in oil 5-10 minutes. While that’s browning, chop potatoes in small cubes, slice carrots, chop celery, and chop cabbage. Set aside. Add canned tomatoes (with juice) to the kettle and then all raw vegetables.
Add water, beef or ham bone (optional for extra flavoring), salt and pepper. Bring to boil and simmer for 30 minutes. Then add additional leftover vegetables (as listed), or any quick cooking frozen vegetables you have on hand.
Add macaroni. Stir frequently to keep macaroni from sticking. Cook 30 minutes more. Remove bone, celery leaves. Serve. Makes a large pot of soup, probably enough to serve at least 8-10, or giving you leftovers to freeze for another meal.
Melodie M. Davis is the author of nine books, most recently, Whatever Happened to Dinner: Recipes and Reflections for Family Mealtime (Herald Press, 2010). She writes the syndicated column, Another Way, serves as a managing editor for Herald Press, and is also editor of a local family publication, Valley Living. She keeps a blog where she features frequent recipes from her home, family and church life. She is married and the mother of three adult daughters and four grandsons.