Cold Weather and Beef & Barley Soup

I am going to try my best not to complain about the weather.  Winnipeg (known to some as WinterPeg) gets a bad rap – and this winter has been really nice.  Until last week, when it turned bitterly cold.  On Friday the temperature hovered at about -33 C and today it’s better, but still a bone-chilling -23.

It’s during cold spells like this that I like to pull out the big soup pots and let a batch of soup simmer away, warming the house and then warming me.

Beef & Barley Soup
1 1/2 lb. (or more) marrow bones
2 lbs. flanken (short ribs, I use “Miami ribs” which are quite thin)
1 yellow onion, peeled and chopped
3 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
1-2 cups button mushrooms, sliced
3/4 cup pearl barley, rinsed and drained
1 – 19 oz. can of mixed beans, rinsed and drained
18 cups cold water
kosher salt and black pepper to taste

You’re going to need a big pot for this one.  I use a heavy, enamel coated, cast iron pot – but any big stock pot that isn’t thin and flimsy will do.

Rinse the ribs and bones.  Place them in the pot.  I must confess – my ribs weren’t completely thawed, so they went in whole.  If you’d like to cut them up a bit to make them more manageable, you can do that now.  You could, of course, leave out the marrow bones if they aren’t your cup of tea – but marrow is a wonderful thing.  The bones will add more flavour and the marrow will add some richness.

Pour the cold water over the bones and then the pot goes onto the stove (medium-high until it just starts to simmer).  It won’t take long for scum to start coming to the top of the pot.  Skim it.  Skim it all – be vigilant.  Stir things up every few minutes to release more scum – and reduce the temperature so that the water is just barely simmering.  It will take a good 20-30 minutes for the scum to stop – keep skimming until the water is pretty clear (don’t worry about it being completely clear – just make sure that the scum has stopped forming, and remove whatever you can).  You’ll find yourself with a bowl full of scum and foam to dispose of. Loosely cover the pot and let the meat simmer for 45 minutes.

While the meat is simmering, prep your vegetables. I like everything chopped about the same size (small) – this is pretty forgiving soup though, so you decide how you like it.  Rinse and drain the beans and barley.  When 45 minutes are up, add all of the vegetables, beans and barley to the pot.

Loosely covered and another 45 minutes of simmering.

When I say ‘loosely covered’ I mean that it should be covered, but left open just a crack.  I want some of the liquid to evaporate during cooking, but not too much.  Make sense?

Add some salt and black pepper, taste, add more if necessary.  Serve it up with some crusty bread.

This does make a lot of soup – but on a cold winter weekend, it doesn’t seem to hang around. Should you find yourself with a lot of leftovers, it can be frozen and then reheated when another cold snap hits.



  1. is that a marrow bone i see!! YUM :)) unfortunately, there’s never enough marrow inside them for me to get enough. gawd i love that stuff.

    this soup with lots of flanken is one of my favourites, especially in the winter. i’ve been thinking about it recently, too. thanks for posting it :))

    wonder where the miami part of the ribs comes from….not sure we call it that here. maybe we do and i’ve just never heard of it before. i’ll take fat ribs over thin ones any day, thank you very much. lol.

  2. burekaboy, I’m Pam’s sister. A few months ago I walked into our family’s store and the first thing my dad gleefully said to me was ‘guess what just came in!’ A case of marach bones! The next thing he asked was ‘When are you going to make p’cheh?’ (we eat it hot with fresh challah) The ones he got in are wonderfully full of that amazing silky marach. Of couse, you also have to suck on the bones (no dirty thoughts please) to get the last bits of goodness. Of course, the case of pipecks (haven’t seen those in years) came in a few weeks after I made a huge pot of p’cheh.

  3. The marrow bones are really full – they’re excellent.

    I actually agree with you, I like the fatter short ribs – but as is the case with the shoemakers children who have no shoes, I get what’s left over! We were out of thicker ribs, so I used the thinner ones. Still good mind you.

  4. hey lisa! didn’t know pam had a sister! nice to “meet” you.

    wow, haven’t heard about pchah in a lonnngg time. real shtetl fare. maybe your sis is gonna have to post something about it! (nudge, nudge). i’m sure others would love to hear about this rarely made (these days) food. didn’t even think people, apart from lubavitcher types, were still making it. is it popular in W’peg?

    marech is my downfall ;P i’d have taken that box and ran! LOL. now…forgive my ignorance but what in the world are pipecks (apart from the obvious, well known body part)?? i vaguely remember it being some chicken body part, if i am correct. as for sucking the bones, ROTFLMAO. good one.

    PAM – i’m sure the thinner ones tasted great, too — you make due/do with what you have. i can’t help but admit to my love of the fatty part of the meat. sigh. thank goodness i don’t have any cholesterol problems! marech and fat from short ribs, yikes ! 😛

  5. burekaboy, yup, I’m the well hidden older sister who escaped from the food biz 😀 Nice to ‘meet’ you too. As far as I know p’cheh isn’t that popular anywhere but I’m a sucker for the traditional stuff. Plus, it’s my understanding that most people eat p’cheh cold which sounds sooo wrong to me. We eat it hot and sop up the broth with fresh challah.

    The last batch I made was with marach bones (I grabbed about a third of a case 😉 ), a few osso bucco cuts, gorgles (chicken necks), finely chopped onion, two heads of garlic, salt, pepper, and grated egg yolk. You were pretty much on the money in regard to pipeks, chicken stomachs.

    Normally I make only one batch a year but since we got the pipeks in I might have to make a second batch and take some pictures. 🙂

    Now, if only there was some way we could get ayilech (partially formed eggs that they get from slaughtered chickens, kinda like the ultimate egg yolk that’s amazing when cooked in chicken soup) I’d be in heaven.

  6. What she didn’t add is that I’m not a fan of p’cheh. Next time she makes it I’ll get her to take some pictures and post them.

    She also pointed out that she’s not in the family business – which means she has more time to post here than I do! I’m busy trying to get Pesach orders put together and don’t have much time to post (or cook) right now. But I’ll be back when I can!

  7. lisa – thanks for the reply 🙂 wow, rikhticke yiddishe maidlech both you and pam, LOL. i remember the gelled, yellow mass with hardboiled eggs from seders and being “afraid” of it. it seemed only the older people touched it. i think i’d be receptive to trying it as a adult now. it is definitely an olde world delicacy, particular to certain communities. i would love if you could take pix if you ever make it again 😀 that would be way cool.

    as for the pipeks, i was thinking…hmmm, never seen a chicken stomach before! you DEFINITELY need to post a picture of a pipek for educational purposes.

    the ayelech i have heard many an older person remenisce about. they even have that recipe calling for unhatched eggs in 2nd helpings. i’ve never tasted them but hear they are wonderful. i think they are sold in asian markets here (unkosher, obviously). unfortunately, they’ve been banned. my parents always made soup when i was very small with feet which are also vorbotten these days. absolutely NOTHING went to waste with that chicken, from the skin to its unhatched eggs!

    pam – uggh pesah. can’t even believe that it’s almost february! good luck with the workload. looking forward to your next postings 😀

  8. burekaboy, if my family served p’cheh cold I’d have never gone near it either 😀 I’ll definitely take pics the next time I make it. As for ayelech, I hadn’t had them in years but when I was living in Australia the butcher I went to had them year round!! Needless to say, whenever I made chicken soup I bought a pack of them to throw in. They’re a bit of a pain to clean but soooo yum. They have the consistency of a rubber ball but taste like the ultimate egg yolk.

    Speaking of chicken skin, I still miss my baba’s greiven. She used to keep a jar in the fridge and that was the first place I went when I visited her, after giving her a kiss of course. 😀

  9. Vegetable Marrow Soup

    1 medium-sized marrow, 1 onion, ½ oz. of finely chopped parsley, 2 tablespoonfuls of Allinson fine wheatmeal, 1 pint of milk, 1 quart of water, ½ oz. of butter, pepper and salt to taste.
    Remove the pips from the marrow, cut it into pieces, chop up fi…

  10. I found your recipe by googling “beef barley soup blog.” I’m not big on the commercial recipe sites, so usually find recipes (and great blog sites) in this way.

    I don’t make many recipes with beef involved, but my husband likes it from time to time. I do have very fond memories of my father’s Saturday soups and beef barley was one of his best efforts. And, after all these years, I just found out it is my husband’s favorite soup–a detail he’s kept back because he knows beef isn’t my thing…how sweet.

    Also, on his behalf, I purchased a large sampler pack of grass fed beef from a farmer at the local market last fall and we are still working our way through it. Grass fed beef is very lean and so I am–by trial and error–learning how to prepare it. This recipe seems just right.

    I’ll report back. Thanks!!

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