Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Ham and bean soup

On the weekend, I decided to make a bowl of ham and bean soup. When it's cold out and the house is chilly (but not cold enough to turn the heat on), soup really does it for me. There's something really comforting about having a hot bowl in your hands, and burning your tongue as you eat. I served this with a nice crusty garlic loaf (as in, bits of garlic in the bread, not garlic bread), and it was well received.

  • 1/2 to 1 pound ham, cut up
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3-6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 potatoes, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 16 oz dry package of Great Northern white beans
  • chicken or beef broth (amount varies)
  • spices to taste
Several hours before dinner, rinse and pick through your dry beans. Put them into a pot and cover them completely with cold water. Bring to a full, rolling boil and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, cover, and let sit for at least 3 hours.

About an hour or two before dinner, sauté up the onions and garlic. While they're simmering, drain your beans and rinse with cold water. To your soup pot, add the ham, potatoes, carrots and beans. Add the broth to completely cover the pot's contents, remembering that the beans and potatoes will soak up a lot of the liquid.

Bring the soup to a boil, then turn down and simmer for one hour. Check your potatoes from time to time, and also check the level of liquid. You want this soup to be very thick, but not a stew, so add more broth as necessary.

Salad as a side (1)
As soon as the potatoes are crumbling but not complete mush, add a bit of salt, pepper, and other spices to taste. I found that I only used the salt and pepper for this one, but I used a lot of garlic early on in the cooking process. Stay away from spicy flavors, going instead for a more savory taste.

The soup is ready when the flavor is right, the potatoes are crumbling a bit, and the beans are soft. Making it ahead of time is fine, and this will last well in the fridge for several days in a sealed container. Because of the beans, I wouldn't freeze it. I suspect they'd turn kind of mushy.

I wasn't able to bake bread when I made this, so I picked up a loaf of crusty bread from the store (artisan bread without a lot of junk in it). I drizzled a bit of olive oil over it, then sprinkled it with a bit of salt, and popped it into a 350F oven for 20 minutes while I got the table set and the drinks for everyone.  Paired with a nice salad, the warm bread and fresh butter, this meal really rounded out the evening well.

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(1) Image by Shizhao / Wikimedia Commons