Babka’s Beef Barley Soup (Hovädzia Polievka Jačmeň)

Babka’s beef barley soup holds a special memory for me. I have made it countless times for my own children and they loved it while growing up. It reminds me of coming into her kitchen on a cold winter day and seeing the windows all steamed up and a wonderful smell wafting throughout the house. Their big white metal table would have a basket of some fruit or vegetable that she was sitting and peeling, and Dedko would be seated next to her by the window, reading the newspaper. No talking was going on between them and only the sound of a passing train would break the silence. I would sit across from Babka on the bench and begin helping her with her task. I passed many an afternoon like this, content just to be in her presence.

A few pounds of beef short ribs, beef shanks, or some inexpensive cut that has bones
1 large yellow onion, quartered
4 carrots, peeled and sliced
3 pieces celery, left whole
2 cups pearl barley
8 oz. mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
salt and pepper to taste
6 qt. cold water

 Roast meat and bones in 400 degree oven until well browned in a low pan. Place meat and juices in large 8 qt. soup pot. Add onion, salt, pepper and water. Simmer on low heat for several hours, stirring occasionally.

 Next, add the carrots and mushrooms, then the pearl barley. Stir well every 15 minutes or so. Simmer for another hour, until barley is cooked.

 When the soup is ready, remove meat and bones. Discard bones, dice soup meat into small pieces and add back to soup. Remove celery and discard. If soup seems too thick, add more water as the barley will continue to thicken the soup.

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