Saturday, December 26, 2009

Bean Soup

Thickness of your soup will depend how much stock you add.
Good bean soup requires several important steps. The first is preparing a great ham base see my post for December 25, 2009 or click here: Kitchen Bounty: Soup Base for Ham, Pea, and Lentil Soup

Second is soaking the beans overnight. DO NOT ATTEMPT to make bean soup without this important step unless you wish to contribute to the depletion of the planet's ozone layer due to uncontrolled gases! I put my beans in a colander and then place that in a large bowl and fill it with water several hours before going to bed. Then I lift out the colander, throw out the water, rinse the beans, and fill the bowl with water yet again. I do this several times. It will make your beans much more "friendly."

I love sweet vermouth with bean soup. Sweet vermouth is like the taste of autumn and complements the soup. You may omit it. If you do, just add one cup more stock.

It's important to let the soup simmer for several hours and even more important to taste it periodically. Keep some extra ham stock on hand (or a can of chicken stock) to add if the soup becomes too thick.

Like most soups, this improves with age and is even better the next day. I like to sprinkle fresh Parmesan cheese on top of each bowl when I serve it. I always served a pot of this soup at my autumn open house at my art studio along with apple crisp. They were both always a smashing hit.

  • 1, 16-ounce package dried navy beans
  • 4-5 cups ham stock
  • 1, 14.5 ounce can whole tomatoes, broken apart, including the juice
  • 1 cup sweet vermouth
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 1/2 cup diced carrots
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 heaping teaspoons minced, fresh garlic
  • 1-2 cups chopped ham
  • 1-2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Additional stock
  • 1 smoked ham hock or ham shank, rinsed
  • 2 whole cloves (optional) each tied with a thin piece thin of twine (to make it easy to remove)
  • red pepper flakes (optional)
Combine the soaked beans, stock, veggies, ham and seasonings in a large stockpot and bring to a slow boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered for two hours.

After two hours, taste for seasonings. Add the ham hock or ham shank, the cloves and a pinch or two of the red pepper flakes if desired. Stir. Add more stock if necessary. Cover and continue to simmer for another hour or two, longer if you have the time. After several hours, remove the cloves, the bay leaf, and the ham hock or shank. Ladle into bowls and enjoy.

I never add salt to a ham-based dish since ham is usually pretty salty to begin with. If you don't have extra ham for the soup, have the deli counter cut you several one-half inch slices. "Ham Off the Bone" is a common deli cut that works well.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Soup Base for Ham, Pea, and Lentil Soup

Winter is SOUP TIME! I always make a ham base for my bean soups. It's really quite easy and makes all the difference, especially since one doesn't always just happen to have a "ham bone" on hand.

  • 2-3 pounds smoked ham shanks or smoked ham hocks or smoked ham neck and back bones or a combination
  • 1 onion roughly cut
  • 2-3 whole cloves
  • 1-2 carrots, cut into fourths
  • 1-2 celery stalks, cut into fourths
  • about six cups of water

Rinse the ham "parts" really well and place into a stock pot. Fill with water and swirl then drain to clean bones even more. Add the rest of the ingredients and add water until covered. Bring to a SLOW boil and then immediately lower to a simmer. Skim off foam. Cover and simmer for 8 hours. I usually put it on the stove before I go to bed. An electric stove works best for this. You will get a clearer stock if it doesn't boil.

When cool enough to handle, strain through a colander. And then strain through a sieve. You'll have a rich broth with which to make soup. Place in the refrigerator overnight and remove the fat that rises to the top. You'll be left with a very rich and gelatinous stock with which to make a great bean soup. You can store this in the freezer. I like to use 3-4 cup tupperware-like containers.

Recipe for bean soup is here: Kitchen Bounty: Bean Soup