When I was a kid, I lived with my greatgrandmother. This made for a lot of interesting experiences. There are always some benefits and some drawbacks when growing up around an older person, I think. One of my favorite benefits was learning how to make Grandma's soup though. Just the smell of that soup was enough to instantly transport you back to her kitchen. She really didn't have a lot of recipes that she made herself in her later years, but the soup was always something that people remembered. That was her big one, I think. And though she passed away over ten years ago, every time I make that soup for someone who knew her, they go back to that same kitchen that I spent so much of my childhood in and so do I.
The thing about this soup is that when I tell people what really goes into it, I always get the feeling that they either don't believe me or they think it would be better with more common elements in it. I always feel obligated to explain to them why that isn't the case. I'll talk more about that later though. The first thing about this soup that you should probably know is that it was probably first made around the time of the great depression. My grandma's family was never rich. So, either way, their recipes were best when they fit with a budget. That's another reason I like this one. Okay, ingredients time. First, you need to get around a pound of ground beef... Yes. ground beef and it can be pre ground. Don't worry about it being undercooked either. It won't be. You'll need two average sized cans of peas and two of cream style corn (make sure it's not normal kernel corn or it won't work as well). Also, you'll need probably three good sized russet baking potatoes (this is for the original recipe. personally, and this is the only change I've ever made to this recipe, I prefer to use about six to eight smaller red potatoes. I just like the flavor and tenderness of them in the soup a little better.). Exactly how much you use will really depend on how much you like potatoes, but I find that I like to have at least as much volume of potatoes as I have of meat. You will also need some garlic salt for seasoning. The final ingredient is the one that always gets people. It's a medium to large bottle of ketchup. It doesn't really matter what brand you use, though I do have my favorite. The first step of this recipe should help to explain why you're using ketchup.
Get a stock pot with a lid. Put about an inch and a half to two inches of water in the stock pot and put it on the stove at medium high heat. Place the ground beef in the stock pot. You should have just enough water to completely submerge the beef under it. Any more than that and the soup may become too watery. As the water heats up and the beef starts to cook, sprinkle the garlic salt in. It doesn't have to be much, maybe a teaspoon or two. As it starts to cook and get more solid, start to break the beef up with a large cooking spoon. While this is going on, you should have time to peal and cut your potatoes. Cut them into slightly smaller than bite size pieces. As the beef cooks and you're pealing and cutting, the water may start to boil up. A little bubbling is okay, but you don't want it to start to over boil or bubble up over the pot. Whenever it starts to get a rolling boil going, put a can of either corn or peas in. Be careful when you do this. The fuller the pot gets, the more prone to splattering up the peas and corn can get and hot water can shoot back at you with them. Whenever you get about half way done with one potato (or completely done with one if you are using the smaller red potatoes), go ahead and drop the finished pieces in the soup as it cooks. Continue doing this and putting the corn and peas in as rolling boils start until the potatoes are all done and in the soup along with all four cans. Now, the pot should be fairly full. This is the harder part. I don't have exact measurements for this as you probably noticed by now, because Grandma didn't measure. She just knew how much to use and since I watched her make it for around fifteen years, I do too. Since I can't stand over your shoulder to watch you when you make this though, I'm doing my best to make things as clear as I can. The ketchup should be added a little at a time, but not too little. You're going to want to take the cap off the bottle for this. Once you've got a little in there, stir it around in the pot. Make sure to stir top to bottom. This stuff can clump in there and kind of hide from you. You don't want your soup to be too ketchupy. It should ultimately resemble a redish orange color. I've included a picture. At this point, I should probably point out the reason for the ketchup in the first place. A few of my relatives have tried and failed at making this soup, because they thought they should substitute tomato juice or something for the ketchup. The ketchup serves two purposes here. First, it adds some flavor to the soup. Next, it helps thicken it. You've already got water from cooking the beef (which should still be in there btw. It makes a good broth.), water from the canned peas, and the liquid from the corn. Adding another liquidy substance will make this soup way to watery. Anyway, I hope I've explained this well enough to help you make a good batch of soup that you enjoy. This is the first time I've ever tried to write this down for anyone. I'm including a picture to help you determine if your soup is matching the ketchup content I use. Just look at the coloring really. That and the smell are mostly how I know if it's right. Usually, this soup will last at least a few days at my house even when we get seconds. Well, enjoy and let me know how it turns out.