The Family Dried Bean Soup

I always have emergency food in my freezer. It’s there in case I think I’m going to have time to cook when I get home, but it turns out I don’t. Or for when I have unexpected casual company — like my brother Jeff and sister-in-law Eileen come over for dinner on the spur of the moment and I don’t feel like cooking. Or in some medical emergency.

Like yesterday.

My daughter Gillian dislocated her shoulder, so I went to her house to help out with the kids. I figured they might need dinner, so I brought two of my frozen go-to meals: macaroni and cheese and what we call Green Soup, a family favorite.

Well, all of you know what macaroni and cheese is. But Green Soup is a family specialty. It was invented by my cousin Essie, so I always used to call it Essie’s Soup. 


Essie threw of few packages of soup mix and some beef bones together, added a few extras like dried and fresh vegetables and cooked it forever (many hours anyway) until it tasted good.

We all loved it and so everyone in my extended family made it. We all changed the recipe each time we made the soup. This recipe is very flexible. For example, sometimes I use yellow split peas. Add lentils. Leave out the dried mushrooms and use fresh shiitakes or portobellos. Sometimes I use one package of “Cholent mix” (which is simply a pound size bag of mixed dried beans) instead of the soup mixes. Like that.

The more you cook this soup the thicker it gets of course. I cook it so long that it is actually more like a stew (sometimes I cook it overnight).

When my son-in-law Jesse came into the family and tasted this he asked me how it differs from Cholent, the Jewish Shabbat stew.

It doesn’t really, except that Cholent usually has more actual meat, and the only meat in this recipe is the stuff on the bone.

You could call this Cholent if you like. I still want to pay tribute to my cousin, so I’ll continue to call it Essie’s Soup.

Try it. Spoon it into freezer containers and take it out/reheat as needed.

Essie’s Soup

1/2 cup dried mushrooms

6-8 meaty beef bones

2 packages soup mix (such as Streits or Manischewitz) (such as split pea, mushroom-barley or lima bean soup)

1 cup dried green split peas

1 cup dried white beans, lima beans or kidney beans

1 cup pearled barley (farro or wheatberries)

1 large onion, sliced

2-3 stalks celery, sliced

4 carrots, sliced

1-2 parsnips, sliced

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

fresh dill or thyme, optional

1 10-ounce package frozen lima beans

Place the mushrooms in a bowl, cover with hot water and soak for 10-15 minutes or until softened. Rinse clean, cut up and set aside. Place the beef bones in a large soup pot, cover with water by one-inch and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat and simmer for about 5-8 minutes, skimming any foamy debris that floats to the top. Add the soup mix packages, including the seasoning packets, the peas, beans, barley, onion, celery, carrots and parsnip. Add about one tablespoon salt and a few grindings of black pepper. Add the dill or thyme if desired. Keep the soup at a simmer and cook for hours and hours, stirring occasionally, until the soup is very thick and the meat is falling off the bone. Add the lima beans and cook for another 30 minutes. Add water if too thick or cook longer if not thick enough. Makes at least 12 servings