A healthy, flavorful soup chock full of healthy ingredients, Smoked turkey and Barley Soup with Kale and Butternut Squash is perfect comfort food on a chilly winter's evening!
"Mmm Mmm Good!"
Do you remember this slogan? Campbell Soup Company began using this in a marketing campaign in the 1930s and its effectiveness landed it in the top 25 of all advertising campaigns of the last century. This time of year, soups and stews draw me, but I don't want to open a can. Making homemade soups is a far healthier alternative, and stunning results can be accomplished in short order.
During the colder months, soups and stews are my "go to" meal... especially on weeknights. One key to making delicious soups in a hurry is to keep good quality broth or stock on hand. When possible, I pull frozen homemade stock out of my freezer. I make large batches of vegetable, chicken, beef, and seafood stock, and freeze 4-6 cups in zip bags. I also keep good quality cartons of commercial stock in my well-stocked pantry. With this step out of the way, a steaming bowl of nourishing and delicious soup can be on your table in under an hour, including my Smoked Turkey and Barley Soup with Kale and Butternut Squash.
I had made a trip to our Natural Grocers, and the inspiration for this soup was the redbor kale - a curly leaf purple and green variety that is just lovely. I also grabbed another seasonal favorite - butternut squash. As I mentioned, I keep good stock on hand, and my pantry provided the medium-cook barley, onion, and cannelini. I grow rosemary in my garden, and during the colder months, I keep smoked turkey drumsticks.
I have to sing the praises of smoked turkey drumsticks. They provide all the smoky flavor of a ham hock, but are far meatier and less fatty. The smoked turkey is a key flavor in this soup.
Since this was a weeknight meal, and I was cooking after a later-than-usual workout at the gym, I might have figured there was not time to make a soup that required tenderizing a turkey drumstick to the point that it would fall off the bone. Fortunately, I have a pressure cooker!
Don't fear the pressure cooker. They've come a long way since our moms and grandmas used them 🙂 I made this soup in under an hour, and the turkey came off the bone with a fork... If you want to make this soup and don't have a pressure cooker, you can cook the turkey drumstick in a crockpot during the day, and prepare the soup in the evening. I have done so many times. Of course your range top will work just fine. Keep in mind, though, the turkey will need about 2-3 hours on medium-low heat to become tender enough to bone it.
- Breaking down a butternut squash is a pain, and pretty time consuming. Most markets now carry fresh, cubed butternut squash... for a price of course.
- I like medium-cook barley best as it holds its texture far better than quick-cook barley, but takes less time to cook than hulled barley. If you make a substitution, be sure to follow the instructions for cooking time.
- Kale bunches really range in size, and it does wilt when cooked, but if you have a huge bunch, you may wish to use less than a whole bunch.
- Any winter squash makes a good substitute, including pumpkin.
- Kale comes in several varieties including dino (or Tuscan) kale, redbor kale, red Russian kale, etc. Remove the woody stems and coarsely chop the leaves.
- Chard is a great alternative to the kale. You may use the stems or ribs, chopping them prior to adding to the soup. The leaves will only require wilting in the hot soup.
In the pressure cooker:
- 1 smoked turkey drumstick
- 6 cups water
- 2 bay leaves
In a medium saucepan:
- 1 cup medium-cook barley (see notes)
- 4 cups water
In a soup pot or heavy dutch oven:
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 3 cups cubed butternut squash (see notes)
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 tsp. minced garlic
- 1 tsp. crushed red pepper (optional)
- 2 tbsp. fresh rosemary, finely chopped
- 1 bunch kale, ribs or stems removed, leaves coarsely chopped
- 1 cup stock
- 1 can cannelini beans, rinsed and drained (see notes)
- salt and pepper to taste
- Place the turkey drumstick in the bottom of the pressure cooker. Cover with 6 cups of water, and add the bay leaves. Set the pressure setting to "2" (higher pressure with very little pressure release), and make certain the handle is in the locked position. Turn heat to high until the pressure cooker release valve begins to make sizzling noises. Lower heat to medium-low. Keep an eye on it while you prepare the soup. You want steady pressure but reasonable pressure. 45 minutes should be sufficient.
- While the turkey cooks, boil the barley in a medium saucepan covered with water. When it is tender but not soft, drain and remove from the heat. The brand I use requires about 45 minutes.
- Now you've got the turkey and the barley going. To a dutch oven or soup pot, add the olive oil, cubed squash, onion, and garlic. Cook until onion is translucent. Add rosemary and crushed red pepper (if using). Stir w together for 1-2 minutes until fragrant.
- Add kale and stock. Cover and simmer while barley and turkey finish.
- De-pressurize the pressure cooker by turning off the heat, and lowering the valve to "1", and then to open. This will take a few minutes. Do NOT attempt to open until it is no longer releasing steam. Remove and bone the turkey. Strain the liquid to remove any bits of bone.
- Pour smoked turkey stock into the soup pot. Add the drained barley, cannelini beans, and boned turkey chunks. Cover, and bring back to a simmer. Taste for seasoning.
- Ladle into bowls, and garnish with finely chopped flat leaf parsley.
* Medium-cook barley has better texture and holds up well in soup. Hulled barley requires more time, but is a whole grain option. Quick-cook barley turns mushy in soup, and I do not recommend it.
** I don't really care to pay for the convenience of packaged, cubed butternut squash, but it is a time-saver and a healthy option.
*** Cannelini beans are white kidney beans, and widely available. However, you can substitute other white beans.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 294Total Fat: 8g