Sunday, October 03, 2010

Finally Fall: Bean Soup

The weather has finally turned from hot to a more normal fall. Crisp cool mornings and evenings with still some lingering warm afternoons. We even had some rain early this morning so I decided to make a meal that my husband has been craving.

Frugal, filling, satisfying and ever so easy. Ham hocks and bean soup with cornbread.

Ham Hocks and Bean Soup

2 cups Great Northern Beans
3 large meaty ham hocks
one large onion
3 stalks of celery (with leaves)
3 stalks of celery
2 carrots
1/2 scant tsp pepper
1/8 tsp or less red pepper flakes
kosher salt

Rinse sort and soak the beans either overnight or quick method. I generally use the quick method. Put the beans in cold water, bring to a boil. Then turn off the heat and let the beans sit for several hours.

Add the ham hocks and add enough water to cover. Cut the onion into large chunks, about 1 inch and toss into the pot. Toss in the whole stalks of celery with leaves. If they are too big to fit into the pot, cut them in half. The celery with leaves can even be old and wilted. They are just to give flavor to the broth and you will remove them later. Crush the garlic cloves and toss into the pot. Season with pepper. Don't salt at this time. The ham hocks may be salty enough.

Bring the soup to a low simmer and cook covered for several hours, adding more water if needed. Check the beans occaisonally for tenderness. You don't want to cook them until they are mush, but you also don't want hard undercooked beans. Remove from the heat. Remove the ham hocks and let cool enough so that you can handle them. Remove the celery stalks.

Separate the meat from the bones and put the meat back into the pot. I often also add back the bones from the hocks to continue to give flavor to the broth.

If you want a more spicy soup, you can add a small amount of hot pepper flakes. Be sparing with this as the longer you cook it the hotter they will get. Simmer until the beans are tender. Keep checking the water level. If it seems that the bean soup is getting dry.....add more water. Taste and if needed add salt. Peel and chop carrots into a rough dice about 1/2 inch. Cut the remaining celery into 1/2 inch chunks. Toss the carrots and celery into the pot. Add some parsely if you feel like it. Simmer until the vegetables are tender.

As you can see....I'm not very precise with my recipes. I tend to wing it with this soup. If I have a left over meaty ham bone I will use that. I like my bean soup a bit more on the soupy side and not cooked to a paste. I also like the vegetables to be on the more crisp side, rather than cooked to a pulp.

Bean soup is a great pantry or survivalist meal, meaning almost all the ingredients can come from your pantry. Dried beans. Dried onions. Canned carrots. Canned ham or spam. Celery salt if you can't get fresh celery.

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