Root Soup

When someone once asked James Beard why there were no soup recipes in one of his cookbooks, he is said to have replied:  “Recipes for soup?  You look in the refrigerator, and then you make soup.”  Actually, James Beard did publish some soup recipes over the years, but his reply should be recalled by anyone considering what to cook on a cold day.

That was really how I first made root soup.  Not that I confined my inspection to the refrigerator:  I also checked the pantry and the steps leading to the basement where we stored the potatoes and onions.  It was cold, and we did not want to go out.   So we made soup with potatoes, onions and carrots, a leftover ham bone with a bit of meat attached, some beef bouillon cubes and assorted items from the spice rack.

Today I use beef broth, but you can use bouillon cubes as well.  The cubes tend to be salty, so be sure to taste when the soup is nearly done before adjusting the salt.  The rutabaga, parsnip and turnip produce a much more flavorful soup, and if you do not have a ham bone on hand, the smoked pork hock works great.

And if you have something else in the refrigerator that you think might work, just toss it in and hope for the best!


1 3/4 cups each chopped
1 cup each chopped
2 cans beef broth
1 meaty ham bone or smoked pork hock
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. dried marjoram
Water as needed


Peel and chop the potato and rutabaga into 3/4 inch pieces.  Peel or scrape the carrots, split lengthwise and cut into 1/4” slices.  Peel and dice the onion into 1/4” pieces.  Peel and chop the turnip into 1/2” pieces.  Peel the parsnip, split lengthwise and cut into 1/4” slices.  Put all the vegetables into a soup kettle or 8 quart Dutch oven  Drop in the pork hock and add the beef broth.  You should have about 4 cups of beef broth.  Add water to cover about 1/2 inch above the vegetables.  Stir in the salt and other spices.  Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for about 2 hours.  Remove the ham bone or pork hock, cool and separate the meat from the skin and bone.  Chop the meat into 1/2” pieces and return them to the soup.  Let simmer for 5 minutes and taste.  Add salt or pepper as necessary to adjust seasoning.  Serve with bread and salad.

NOTES:  Today I often use two smoked turkey drumsticks instead of the pork hock.  They provide the flavor and meat with less fat and fewer calories.  This recipe makes enough soup to serve 5 or 6 people generously usually with a bit left over.  You can cut the recipe in half if you wish, but the leftover soup holds well in the refrigerator for a couple of days or you can freeze it for use in a few weeks.

One thought on “Root Soup”

  1. Stumbled upon your site. Made this soup.
    Had two rutabagas so and a ton of parsnips and turnips, so I made a ton.
    It was excellent. Great recipe.


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