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Monday, August 25, 2014

Hearty Ham and Bean Soup

It has been rainy and cooler here the past few weeks.  Odd for August in Idaho.  Today felt like a "soup day" as soon as we woke up to clouds and a drizzle.  I remembered I had a ham bone in the freezer from a ham we used last winter so Hearty Ham and Bean Soup was a great choice!

This is another dish where guidelines rather than a "measure exact" recipe are used.  My ham bone was large and very meaty and I planned to feed 9 of us and have leftovers so I used an 8 quart pot to begin with.   Sometimes I use dry beans and sometimes I'm in a hurry and used canned northern beans.  Today I planned to be home most of the day so I chose dried beans to work with.  I've had these beans for a good 15-20 years.  Sometimes when I've kept dry beans that long it takes forever to re-hydrate them (and I didn't think of this last night so I didn't have time to soak them over night!) but with the pressure cooker, these softened up nicely!  I wouldn't recommend storing beans that long, but if you have some in your pantry and they still look good, give them a try before tossing them out!

I like to serve homemade bread with soups but ended up not having time to make fresh loaves today so we just had saltine crackers (and some of us had those spread with butter just like the old days! - That may deserve a post of its own one of these days!).  Cornbread or French Bread would have been lovely though!

Hearty Ham and Bean Soup

1 ham bone
2 C. dried great northern beans or 3-4 cans of great northern beans, mostly drained
1 large onion, diced
3-4 large stalks of celery, sliced
2 carrots, peeled and diced

Sort through dry beans to remove any irregular pieces or dirt/rocks. Place in colander and rinse.  Place in large pot and cover with a couple of quarts of water.  Bring this to a boil and then turn heat off, cover, and let sit for 1 hour.  If you check it during this time and the water has been mostly absorbed, add enough to cover beans again, bring to a boil, and then turn off and continue timing for the one hour.  Once beans have done this quick soak, bring to a boil and then turn to simmer for another hour or until beans are almost tender. (this can take 2-3 hours if the beans are older and extra dry)  Add ham bone and vegetables to the pot and enough water to cover all.  Simmer 30 minutes or so until the flavor from the ham has infused the broth and the ham is falling off the bone.  Remove bone and meat to a plate to cool.  Pull ham off the bone and shred into small pieces.  Add back into the soup.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Serve with bread or crackers.

Joy's Notes:   If you are not using dry beans, start with simmering the ham and vegetables in water until the ham is ready to fall off the bone - add the drained, canned beans and then add meat back in.  This freezes and re-heats really well!  If you don't have a ham bone, you CAN use a piece of ham and simmer.  It doesn't give as nice of a flavor though.

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