Yesterday I had a yummy, nourishing soup simmering on the stove for part of the day. It made the house smell fantastic, and it finished cooking in the crock pot while my daughter and I were at her dance class. We came home, I whipped up some of my favorite cornbread and put it in the oven, and 20 minutes later we were all sitting down to a wonderful feast! If you like bean soup, this recipe is for you. I've made a lot of bean soups over the years and everyone agrees this is my best version. I got the main idea and ingredients from this recipe and then tweaked it a bit to my liking. I like to make it with a leftover ham bone (this one was from our spiral sliced Christmas ham; I just left a bit of meat on it and froze it in a freezer bag) but you can make it with any ham you like. It really is better with a ham bone, though! So for those of you who (like me) have ham for Easter, save your bone! This is so worth it!
This is what I'd call an easy soup. There's chopping and a bit of measuring but it is really fail proof. You don't even have to soak the beans! That's what makes it for me; I rarely think far enough ahead to soak beans overnight, and would rather save the nutrients in the bean water to use in the broth. I don't find this method any more gas-producing than the Quick Soak/dump the water method, personally. Give it a try and see what you think! Or soak your beans if you prefer. But I like the idea of cooking the beans from their dry state in a flavorful broth rather than just water.
First, make the broth. Just toss your frozen (or unfrozen) ham bone with bits of meat attached into a stock pot and cover it with a mixture of fresh water and chicken broth. I used 2 cups of chicken broth because that's what I had on hand and the rest was water; I wouldn't use ALL broth because it might get too salty. Anyway, you don't have to totally cover the bone, but use about 8 cups or so of liquid. Throw in a handful of baby carrots or one regular carrot, a celery stalk with its leaves, 3 bay leaves, one onion cut in quarters, and a clove of garlic (smashed). Cover it and bring it to a boil; lower the heat and simmer for an hour. Take it off the stove and remove the ham bone to a plate. When it is cool enough, pick off the meat and put it in a bowl for later. I had about a cup of meat bits. Then strain the broth, throw out all the solid stuff and put the broth back into the pan. (I like to de-fat my broth with this gadget first).
So now you have a pot of broth. To this broth, you want to add about 4 cups of water. Bring it to a boil while you are chopping your veggies. Skim off any foam or 'layer' that forms on the top just before adding your other ingredients. Then, to the simmering broth, add:
1 pound of dry navy beans, rinsed and picked through (these are also called "small white beans")
1 chopped onion
1 large celery stalk, diced
1 minced garlic clove
1 Tbsp rubbed sage
1 tsp black pepper
DO NOT add extra salt, tomatoes, or anything acidic at this point or it will make your beans take longer to cook. Just bring it to a simmer, give it a stir, lower the heat, cover it and let it cook on the stove for a couple of hours. Give it a stir every so often and add boiling water as needed. You want to keep the beans well covered with liquid... about 2" or so. Keep the heat low and don't scorch the bottom. LOW, just a bare simmer.
(As an aside, I *like* making soup on the stove when I am home all day, able to walk over and check on it and add water and stir it and such. If you aren't going to be home, you can make the ham broth a day ahead and then do the rest in your crock pot if you leave it *all day* to cook, bringing it to a boil first and then having it in the crock for 8 hours or so. Or you can soak your beans and then do the rest in the crock pot).
About 2 hours before dinnertime, I dumped this all into the crockpot with one diced carrot, 2 Tbsp tomato paste, the reserved bits of ham, and another 1 to 1 1/2 cups of cubed smoked ham (you can use leftover ham or whatever you have on hand). It was ready when I got home! You could finish this on the stove if you prefer. Taste at the end and add salt if needed.
This is so good that my soup-hating son took leftovers to work for lunch today! It is even better the second day. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
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