ham and bean soup

Every year we make a ham for Christmas, and then every year after Christmas I decide to make ham and bean soup with the scraps but, because I’ve never bothered to nail down a recipe, I end up frantically casting about for a recipe. What I cobble together is, more often than not, decidedly mediocre.

But this year, the soup turned out dee-LISH-ous, and I was like, “That’s IT. I’m taking notes. This one’s going in my files.” BANG-BANG (the sound of me nailing down a recipe).

My future self thanks me. 

Ham and Bean Soup
Adapted from the blog A Spicy Perspective.

The original recipe called for navy beans but when I got home from the store I discovered I’d mispurchased Great Northern. Now, looking back, I think one of the reasons we may have liked this soup so much is because I used Great Northern beans — they’re bigger and creamier — and everyone (even the non-bean fans!) gobbled it right up.

Our ham bone was picked pretty clean so I added two cups of chopped, leftover ham.

In the above photo (on Day Two of the soup), the kale looks darker and the soup creamier — the beans have begun to break down — than it was on Day One, but it was equally delicious both days. 

1 pound dried Great Northern (or navy) beans
1 ham bone
1 large onion, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups chopped ham
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 teaspoons cumin
½ teaspoon dried thyme (or 1 tablespoon fresh)
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
10 cups chicken broth (or water)
4-6 cups fresh kale, rough chopped

Soak the beans overnight in cold water. Drain, cover with water again, and simmer over medium heat until almost completely tender. (I skipped the overnight soak and just simmered them longer.) As the ham may be quite salty, do not add any salt to the beans until the very end.

In a large stockpot, saute the onion, carrot, celery, ham bone, and garlic in the olive oil over medium high heat for about 5-10 minutes. Add the dried thyme, pepper flakes, and cumin and cook another minute. Add four cups of chicken broth and bring to a simmer. Add the mostly-cooked beans along with their cooking water (about four cups, I’m guessing?), and simmer for 30-60 minutes, or until the beans are completely soft. 

Add the chopped ham and kale and simmer for another 15 minutes, or until the kale is cooked through. Remove the ham bone — pick off any remaining bits of ham and add it to the soup — and season the soup with salt and black pepper.

Serve with hot biscuits, cornbread, or buttered toast.

This same time, years previous: salad dressing: a basic formula, lemon cream cake, the quotidian (1.19.15), chuck roast braised in red wine.

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