(Post by Virginia Allain)
I browned some beef chunks and onions and placed them in the slow cooker with some water. After peeling and chopping the carrots and potatoes, I added those. Then it cooked all day and during the last few hours, I added fresh mushrooms.
This is the version I use to make beef stew these days. It’s not my mother’s beef stew, but it always makes me think of hers. She didn’t follow a specific recipe but used a chuck roast cut into cubes and then added whatever vegetables we had on hand.
Beef Stew from My Childhood
What my mother called beef stew was really a beef vegetable soup. It would have potatoes, carrots, and onions but much more. Mom would send me to the cellar where we stored our home-canned foods. I was to bring back jars of green beans, corn, carrots, and tomatoes.
Those made a colorful addition to the basic ingredients and turned it into a wonderfully savory soup.
I remember now, carefully taking the few stone steps down into the dirt-floored cellar under what must have been the original farmhouse. Merely the outer wooden shell of that house remained, but the cellar continued in use. Around the walls of the dank area, were wooden shelves holding the efforts of Mom’s summer canning.
Gathering the requested jars of vegetables, I’d hurry back up the steps and across the snowy yard to the current farmhouse where we lived for eight years. Mom opened the jars and dumped the contents into the big stew pot. This would simmer on the stove top for hours. It was ready to eat once the potatoes and meat were tender.
Coming in from our evening chores of feeding and watering the chickens and rabbits, the blended smell of beef and vegetables promised a warming meal for us. We placed a plate stacked with white store-bought bread on the table with a container of home-churned butter next to it.
I loved dipping that buttered bread into the stew and then scooping my spoon into the hearty broth. It came up with bits of potato, beef, corn, green beans, carrots, and onions. After reheating for another meal, the stew thickened and the flavors blended even more.
Eight of us sat down to the old-fashioned round oak table. It was one that our dad inherited from his parents, Cora and Ren Martin. Dad grew up eating at that table, Grandma fed the harvest crews at that table, and now a new generation of Martins ate hungrily and when replete, we lingered there telling stories of the day’s happenings.