Friday, December 7, 2012

Ham and Bean Soup

Last weekend my family had our Thanksgiving gathering. In addition to a turkey breast, we also had a bone-in Smithfield ham. My mom and sister assured me the ham bone would make the base for a great soup, so I threw it in the freezer.

Today was the day for soup!

I bought a 20-ounce bag of mixed dried beans and found a method for quick-soaking the beans on the internet since I didn't want to wait to soak them overnight. 

(OK, so this is an empty bag. I forgot to take a picture before I put the beans in the pot.)
Put the beans in a large pot and add water to 3 times the volume of the beans. Do not salt the water. Apparently salting at this point will cause the skins of the beans to become tough. Also, ham is often salty and the soup may not need additional salt.

Bring the beans to a boil, then cook at moderate heat for two minutes. 

Take the beans off the heat, cover, and let sit for one hour. Drain.

Meanwhile, dice up one onion.

I always use sweet onions because I don't like to cry while cooking. 

Peel and dice 5 small carrots and dice 4 celery ribs. 

In an 8-quart stockpot over medium heat, drizzle 2-3 teaspoons of olive oil. Add the vegetables to the pot and sweat them until they are softened. I added salt out of habit, but I recommend waiting to season this soup until the end as the ham can be pretty salty.

Slice or mince 4 cloves of garlic and add to the vegetables. 

Once the vegetables are tender-crisp, add the drained beans. Place the ham bone in the pot.

Add 32 ounces each of vegetable and chicken stock. 

When I made vegetable soup a few weeks ago, I added a Parmesan cheese rind I found in my freezer. The results were so great, today I cut the rind off the Parmesan in my refrigerator and added it to this pot.

I also added a few dashes of liquid smoke. I would say this is optional, but as far as I'm concerned everything is optional. I'm always editing recipes to add ingredients we like and omit items we don't like.

Cook for at least an hour. This is where the judgement call comes in. The recipe I found said to cook it 8 hours. Based on my two hours of cook time, I can't imagine any beans would be left intact by then. Next time I'll only go an hour. Especially since I like to freeze the extra for another day.

To add some texture and extra nutrition, I decided to add some Swiss chard. This is rainbow chard. Aren't those red stems pretty?

I thought about chopping the stems and adding them to the soup, but I haven't cooked them before and didn't want to ruin anything. I'll experiment another day. 

(I found a recipe that said to treat the stems like asparagus. I know how I like to cook asparagus, but didn't know how that would fit into this soup so I ignored it).

Strip the leaves from the stems and chop the leaves. I chopped them fairly fine for two reasons: 1) I've not used this green before and didn't know how it would do in the soup, and 2) my husband doesn't love greens, but he's fine if they aren't too prominent.

When the soup had cooked an hour, I tasted it for seasoning. It tasted great!

I added about half of the chopped chard. Once I stirred it in, I found that seemed like plenty. This is to taste, though. Personally, I would have been good with the whole bunch but decided to stop with half for my husband's sake.

Before you serve this, stir through the soup and pull out what's left of the Parmesan cheese rind and the ham bone. 

Some clumps of fat and unsightly clumps fell off of my ham bone and I removed those. I removed the bone and pulled quite a bit of beautiful tender meat and added it back to the soup pot.

The soup turned out to be so delicious!

I cooked some cornbread to eat with it. 

I put the rest in quart zip-top bags and froze them for easy meals for other busy nights.

Yeah! I love homemade soup!

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