Friday, January 24, 2014

Mom and Dad's Bean Soup is a Delight

My Bean Soup, last evening
Long, long ago, when I was quite young, my Dad brought home a recipe for Bean Soup. They didn't often really cook together. Dad worked long hours and didn't always have time. He was inventive through, and loved to try new things, so I think that must be where I got my gene for trying new things! They made the bean soup though, and it didn't quite suit. So they tinkered with it, tweaked it, and over time, this is what they came up with; a delicious, stick-to-your-ribs kind of soup that is just heaven on a cold day. The photo below left is one my Dad took with his Sony Mavica camera. He was so proud to be able to take photos and immediately email them to all of us children. Dad passed on later that year, and Mom some years later, but their recipes live on.

Mom & Dad's Bean Soup, 2001

ham bone and beans in the pot with water - note the line
To make this soup, it is best to have a leftover ham bone from whatever occasion you have eaten a ham. It is also good to leave a bit of ham on the bone so you get some nice meaty bites in the finished soup. Whenever the occasion arises and a ham bone is left, freeze it, well wrapped until needed. If you really do not have a ham bone, it is possible to make this soup with smoked ham hocks. There was a time when ham hocks had a bit more meat to them, but these days, there is almost none. Still, the flavor will be there and that is the most important part. If you use ham hocks, you might consider adding in 1/2 to 1 pound of cubed ham. Other than the ham bone, the soup is really very simple. Nothing out of the ordinary goes in but beans, barley, onion, carrots, potatoes bay leaves and ketchup.

I don't recall Mom ever soaking the beans for the soup, and I never have when I make my own. Great Northern beans are best, though Navy Beans are fine. When Mom and Dad made the soup in later years, they started playing with the recipe a bit, using celery, which they never did when I was young, and sometimes substituting a bag of baby carrots for regular carrots, sliced. The soup will thicken as the beans are cooked for more than 2 hours. If you stop the cooking when the beans are just tender, the soup will not be as thick, though just as tasty. My preference is that the soup be so nice and thick you can almost stand your spoon up in it, but that is my choice.

Another thing my Dad always did, and I follow suit, is to add a little vinegar to the soup in his bowl. It really enhances the flavor of the soup. I know some may thing this is odd, but I love it, so give it a try. Anywhere from a teaspoon to a tablespoon per bowl, to taste. This soup is heavenly good on its own, but a nice slice of bread with butter is a wonderful addition to the meal.

Bean Soup

The finished soup

1 leftover ham bone, with up to 1 pound meat left on
1 pound Great Northern Beans, picked over and rinsed
1 large onion, diced
1 - 2 bay leaves
1 cup barley, preferably the long-cooking kind
3 - 4 large carrots, scrubbed, sliced in coins
2 - 4 potatoes, depending on size, peeled, cubed
3/4 - 1 cup ketchup

Put first five ingredients into a very large soup pot and add water. The ham bone should stick out by about 1/3 (note the line I made on the photo to show where the water line was). Bring to a boil and reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for about an hour or so. Add the carrots, potatoes and ketchup, cover and continue to cook for at least another hour or two, until soup is slightly thickened and beans are falling-apart tender. Remove the ham bone from the pot and set it on a plate. When cool enough to handle, break off all the meat and break it up into shreds. Discard the bone and any fat. Return the meat to the pot and stir in. Remove bay leaves and pass the vinegar!

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest

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