Family Recipes and Memories: Poor Man Soup

Family Recipes and Memories

“Poor Man Soup

A recipe I always thought my mother invented until I discovered it online… recipe ingredients and veggies vary in allowing you to create it specifically to your taste. It’s pretty much the only soup I remember my mother ever cooking… although I suppose her chicken and dumplings would be her Southern version of chicken soup. I have never tackled that one yet, but she did write out pretty specific directions for me… just might have to try my hand at it soon.

My daughter used to call this “Old Man Soup” when she was small… later telling me that’s what she thought I said. It’s also referred to as just plain hamburger soup… possibly devised out of the depression era and continued on.

As mama never had any hand written recipes in her kitchen, I’ve only been told verbally how she cooked. She always said, “use what you have on hand, or what you like”. What was usually on hand in our house was the many fresh vegetables that came from my grandfather’s farms; mama never used canned veggies. When you have both grandfathers who are farmers… you are kept well supplied with vegetables in the summer… and always fresh.

1 lb. ground hamburger (can use more or less) I use 80% fat
1/4 cup onions (chopped) sometimes I use and sometimes not.
garlic (optional)
1 can carrots (I like LeSueur brand) Save the juice
2 to 3 potatoes, small (chopped) use as much or as little as you like
1 can Butter Beans / Lima Beans (use all the juice with beans)
1 can condensed tomato soup (save can to add water)
salt & pepper – to your taste
water – I add water to the tomato soup can to get the goody out!

Brown hamburger meat and onions (opt) in a 5 quart cooking pot, drain off excess grease. Add 1 can of tomato soup. (save can to add water) Add garlic (if using) when meat and onions are almost done. Add 3 cans of water to start with as you’re going to need liquid to cook potatoes. If you want to substitute real carrots, feel free to do so and add them along with the potatoes. I just happen to love the sweetness of the LeSueur brand so they are my choice. I add the entire can of carrots with the water, as also the butter beans (lima beans) with juice; it helps thicken the soup. If you feel you need more soup broth, add more water.

This is not a long cooking soup, after about 1 – 2 hours its done, but I enjoy simmering it on the stove. You’ll know when it’s ready… taste along.

I never have understood the difference between lima beans vs butter beans, but whenever I asked mama, she’d immediately say, “I don’t like lima beans”… no answer as to why, just that she didn’t like them… and wasn’t going to eat them. I’ve used both small and large versions of the beans and they both have worked just fine. They tend to sink to the bottom of the soup, so if you’re a fan, dig to the bottom when filling your bowl… I do, while hubby skims more off the top, and that’s ok with me… more for me!

In making this soup today, I only had one can of lima beans… frankly I didn’t find any difference in taste from butter beans. If anyone can explain the difference between the two varieties… let me hear from you.

Add salt and pepper to your taste, but I never over salt my foods in the beginning as I find it cooks out, and often other ingredients have sodium in them… so go easy. Like I always told my children… you can always add, but you can’t take out!

When I first began cooking this, I used tomato paste to flavor the soup liquid, but for some reason I switched to tomato soup at one point and I actually like the taste much better. I think it sweetens the soup a bit… or it’s just me… but I only make it now with tomato soup.

This soup has never been a complete family favorite, but that never stopped me from cooking it… as it’s my favorite in the winter, especially a snow day! It’s a thumbs up for my daughter and myself… a thumbs down from my son… and my husband eats everything I cook with no complaints… he’s the “Mikey” in our family.

It also quickly became a favorite with my father-in-law… always enjoying it with a loaf of Italian bread… he loved anything that was dunkable. Just give him a loaf of Italian bread with a bowl of soup… and he was a happy man! I never saw him refuse only a few foods… with broccoli being one. In as much as I love broccoli, and make an awesome broccoli cheese casserole, I often begged him to try. He relented only once to try, but promptly told me that he’d only try it once… and held to his word. I think he mentioned later that broccoli was served all the time in the Army, and that’s why he didn’t want to eat it anymore. He liked to reference back to President H. W. Bush… as he didn’t like broccoli either and always mentioned how he disliked it!

My choice of bread to serve with this soup has always been a pan of Southern corn bread… preferably cooked in a cast iron pan.

I don’t actually remember if my son ate the soup when he was younger, but he probably did as I’m sure I told him he had to eat his veggies! I discovered later that when I cooked liver and onions, he often fed the dog his liver when I turned my back… but feeding soup to the dog would have been a tough trick! When I told him I was making it on the day of our first Nor’easter of 2020… his answer was “yuck, while my daughter responded with “yum!” I’m pretty sure I won’t be able to persuade her two girls to eat it… maybe Grace, but not McKinley… she’s not easily persuaded in trying new foods! My son’s girls, Ana, Nina and Ella would definitely try it… they eat almost everything… what’s in there not to like?


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About Jeanne Bryan Insalaco

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1 Response to Family Recipes and Memories: Poor Man Soup

  1. Antoinette Truglio Martin says:

    Soup on a snow day is always a must. I like t whip up roasted tomato soup and served a side of grilled cheese

    Liked by 1 person

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