Slow Cooker Beef and Cabbage Soup

january 28, 2014

slow cooker beef and cabbage soupMisconception number one regarding slow cookers : cooking aromas will not waft through the house as they do with food simmering in the conventional manner.

I was one of the few cooks on the planet yet to be acquainted with the joys of the crockpot. I had fears (the house will burn down!) and misplaced disdain (it’s not real cooking). In addition,  the aforementioned idea that my nose would not be entertained by the kaleidoscope of savory aromas emanating from an open pot on the stove.

The soup started to cook.  I conquered my fear by leaving the house to see a movie and on my return…the house smelled great.  Just like my memory of Mrs. Green’s beef and cabbage soup in a light tomato broth. I  enjoyed this during my grad school days when I could cajole an extra serving from my study pal, Mrs. Green’s daughter. Unfortunately I never asked for the recipe, so today’s soup is my attempt to recreate that magic.

I borrowed a large six quart cooker from my neighbor Mimi.The massive pile of cabbage, which will cook down nicely and release a heady liquid, will simply not fit in the smaller version I inherited when a friend recently downsized.

The tender, tasty beef is from Dragonfly Farms in nearby Beaverdam, Virginia, home of Belted Galloways (oreo cookie cows), as well as Angus cattle and Katahdin sheep.  Bruce and Katherine Johnson believe in natural care of the animals they raise, providing pasture for grazing (not grain) and a peaceful environment with low stress.  The result is a flavorful and more healthful meat for the consumer at very reasonable prices, and land that continues to support their endeavors.  Please visit their beautifully crafted website for more on their philosophy and the science behind grass fed meats.

Lucky for us, their products are sold in Northside Richmond’s Little House Green Grocery  Co-owner Erin Wright also professed to be a neophyte slow cooker, making me feel a lot better about being in the minority.  The shop provided Dragonfly Farms rich stew meat and organic cabbage for the soup.dragonfly farms rich beef stew meat

As with most soups and stews, flavor improves after at least a day of refrigeration, and this soup freezes well.  A little over one pound of beef can yield many servings, and with better quality meat you will feel satisfied.  Mark Bittman‘s “less meatarian” approach to healthful, responsible consumption suits me well.

Start your meal with colorful fall harvest salad and offer the super-easy fluffy breakfast muffins with this hearty beef and cabbage soup.  This soup was made with love and care on one of Richmond’s rare snow days, the ingredients purchased as snow began to fall the evening  before.  I will never erase the memory of Mrs. Green’s homemade version, and now I add a newer memory associated with the magic that is snow in a southern town.

Slow Cooker Beef and Cabbage Soup

recipe by Michele Humlan, The Good Eats Company

makes at least 10 cups, or ten servings


1-1.3 pounds beef stew meat, cut into ¾ inch pieces and patted dry
2 tablespoons grapeseed or canola oil
fine sea salt
ground white or black pepper
6 cups shredded green cabbage
28 ounces crushed tomatoes
one cup finely chopped onion
6 cups best quality beef stock, divided
3 cups water
2 large garlic cloves, grated
¼ teaspoon each dried basil and oregano
sugar to taste



  1. Season beef with salt and pepper.
  2. Add oil to heavy sauté pan over high heat, and when oil shimmers hot, add beef in batches so that meat is not crowded, and sear until lightly browned, removing seared beef to crock pot.
  3. When beef is finished cooking, deglaze pan with three cups of the beef stock, stirring to scrape any brown bits.
  4. Add deglazing liquid, remaining stock and all other ingredients except sugar to large six quart slow cooker, stirring well to combine.
  5. Cook on low setting for 10 hours.
  6. Adjust seasoning, adding pinches of salt, pepper and/or sugar to taste.
  7. Soup flavors marry well in the fridge for up to 5 days; this soup freezes well.
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