Recipe: thirteen bean soup
Okay kids, I really have been thinking of that giveaway. I believe I have settled on the prize, but I need a little more time to come up with an interesting question – something that allows me to learn a little bit about my readers. You can be sure that my questions are out of curiosity and not some bloody marketing strategy.
It’s soup season. I was going to say it is soup weather, except it wasn’t when I made this – it was positively balmy and sunny. I wanted to cry my eyes out. Where the *bleep* is my snow?! But today IS soup weather. Overcast, cooler (high in the 50s), rainy… I love it. I have been wanting to try a recipe for seven bean soup for several years. When I walked into the grocery store, I searched the bulk bins for beans. I needed a half cup each of seven types. And then I came across the bin with THIRTEEN beans, all mixed together, right there for me! It was so pretty, I could not resist.
In the continuing saga of emptying out my freezer, I found not one, but TWO ham bones! I am always the dork who lurks around at parties that served large hunks of meat, asking if I could have the bone. I have heard that foodie types fight over turkey carcasses or ham bones at holiday parties, but I seem to be surrounded by non-cooks who don’t know that broth comes from bones.
two ham bones – yip!
a nice yield of ham from the bones
While the broth cooked, it gave the house a heady smell – that of baked southern-style ham. You know what I’m talking about – the ham that packs enough sodium to kill a party of 12? Oh yeah, baby, that’s the one. If I sound like someone gushing over her lover, it’s because I grew up in Virginia where Pork is King AND I’m Chinese (pork is also King… or Emperor?). Anyway, I tried out a nifty trick because I was getting impatient waiting for the broth to cool. I usually de-fat my broth by letting it cool and refrigerating it so I can remove the fat. But this broth was taking so long to cool off and there was too much fat to ignore, so I de-fatted it with ziploc bags.
defatting the broth
Worked like a charm! And it also took me back to my sixth grade science fair experiment where I measured the rate of water discharge from a nozzle at the bottom of a bucket and how it varied with volume (height for constant cross-sectional area) of water in the bucket. First Place. SCIENCE!!!
stirring in the beans
The soup is chocked full of delicious beans, vegetables, precious pork meat(s), and that lovely broth. The southern-style ham lends enough sodium to the broth that I never had to add any salt. The ham also gives a little bit of a smokiness to the soup without tasting burnt.
pan fried sausage slices
dump everything into the soup
Awesome soup. I’m having a bowl of it for dinner right now as I type. Those ham bones work magic too, because the moment I put the bones in the pot, Kaweah came and plunked her little furry self in the middle of the kitchen. I nearly killed myself a few times tripping over her, but she would not be separated from those ham bones… The only thing I would do differently is to dice the sausage rather than slice into discs. I think it works better with the size of the beans and vegetables.
slightly modified from The Complete Book of Soups and Stews by Bernard Clayton, Jr.
3 1/2 cups dried beans (preferably a variety of at least seven, but go for more if you like)
[navy, pinto, cranberry, kidney, black-eyed, garbanzo, lima, etc.]
water to cover the beans
2 ham bones
10 cups of water
2 tbsps butter
2 medium onions, diced
2 medium carrots, diced
4 ribs celery, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
28 oz. canned tomatoes, including liquid
1 lb. kielbasa or some kind of garlic sausage
salt, if desired
black pepper, to taste
Soak the dried beans overnight in a large vessel with enough water to cover 3 inches above the beans. In a large pot, cover ham bones in enough water with 2 inches above the bones (about 10 cups). Bring water to boil and partially cover with lid, reduce heat and simmer over low for 2.5 hours. Skim off brown film as it collects on the surface. Drain the beans. While meat is cooking, place beans in another saucepan and add water to cover plus 2 or 3 inches above beans (about 4 quarts). Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour or until the beans are al dente – not mushy. Drain the beans and set aside. In a large skillet, heat the butter to foaming, add the onions, carrots, celery, and garlic. Sauté until translucent but not browned. Set aside. Cut sausage into diagonal 1/4 inch slices and fry in skillet [OR dice, which I prefer]. Cook until fat is released and meat is browned, about 10 minutes. Lift out pieces and discard the fat. When ham bones are done, remove pot from heat and strain the broth into another vessel to cool slightly. Pick off any meat from the ham bones and chop up finely. Discard fat and bones.
To de-fat the broth: When broth is no longer hot (but warm is okay), carefully pour half of the contents into a gallon ziploc bag (set it in a bowl or tall tupperware for support). Seal the bag and let the fat settle out from the broth to the top. Hold the bag above the liquid, in your intended soup pot with one corner pointing straight down. Take a sharp knife and puncture the bag as close to the tip as possible. Let the broth release into the pot. When the fat layer nears the cut in the bag, pinch it closed with the other hand and discard. Repeat with second bag.
Add the chopped ham meat, cooked beans, vegetables (including tomatoes), and the sausage slices to the broth. Simmer the soup over medium-low heat for 30-45 minutes. Taste for seasoning. Serve hot.