We can’t seem to leave winter behind. As I write this, the fairly balmy weather of the last few days has given way to rain, then snow, and now a fierce wind with more snow to come. Ah, spring, that lifeline to sanity. My natural response to such unwelcome, unfriendly weather is “we need soup.”
Years ago we planted several kinds of beans for drying. After a long winter spent in front of the television, separating the beans from their shells, I decided I wasn’t that interested in growing them. The good thing that happened was the discovery of bean soup. All the colorful varieties mixed together in a huge pot, simmering away all day in a rich homemade chicken broth with a submerged smoked hambone…can’t wait for supper! These days I buy a packaged blend cleverly named 15-Bean Soup. It’s a 20-oz. package containing northern, pinto, large lima, yellow-eye, garbanzo, baby lima, green split peas, kidney, cranberry, small white, pink, small red, yellow split peas, lentils, navy, white kidney, and black beans. Wow. That’s quite a variety. Make your own mix with 3-4 kinds of large beans and some split peas or lentils, and it will be just as good. The pre-packaged mix comes with a seasoning packet, which you may or may not use. It’s not necessary if you use already seasoned stock, but keep it anyway. You might decide your soup needs a little something or you’ll find another use for it.
Start by soaking the beans overnight in enough water to cover them by an inch or two. In the morning drain and rinse them. A slow cooker works well for this long cook, so pour in the beans, a hambone or smoked ham hocks if you didn’t save your Easter hambone (shame on you, never throw away bones), then all the rest of the ingredients. Turn to high until it is bubbling well, then lower the heat for another 4-6 hours, till beans are soft. Remove and discard the bone, saving any bits of meat. Use a hand blender or food processor to blend about 2 cups of soup, then mix that into the rest of the soup to thicken it. This makes a big batch, so you might need to freeze part of it. Just cool it and pour into quart containers, leaving an inch of headspace for freezer expansion.
– Joan, 13 April 2018
- 20 oz. dried beans
- 8 cups water
- 1 hambone or smoked ham hocks
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 4-6 stalks celery, chopped
- 4 large carrots, chopped
- 4-6 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 small dried chile, optional
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme, optional if using seasoned stock
- 8 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- 2 cups diced canned tomatoes, with juice
- 1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
- ½ teaspoon pepper, more or less to taste
Soak beans overnight in about 8 cups water. Drain and rinse the beans and put them in a slow cooker.
Sauté onions and celery in a bit of olive oil till slightly softened. Add them with all the other ingredients to the slow cooker turned to high. After it starts to bubble and cook, turn heat to low for another 4-6 hours, until beans are thoroughly cooked. Remove the hambone or hocks, pulling off and reserving any meat, and the chile if you used that. Remove about 2 cups of soup and run through a food processor, or use a hand blender, then return that and any pieces of meat to the soup.