In the beginning there was a ham bone with a good chunk of ham, left over from a family feast. (“Give it to Ann; she’ll do something with it”). Then there was the rich and delicious pan of scalloped Yukon Golds, cheese and ham, which I exploded in a display worthy of a low-budget Fourth of July spectacle. Today the ham goes to it’s heavenly reward as a pot of bean soup, to be served with corn bread. It is basic and unsophisticated, but does justice to the ham, uses good Michigan beans, and may even help us to face the cold weather – 12 degrees and dropping, as I speak. Not only is this good to eat; if you have a ham bone with some meat left on it, it’s as cheap as it gets – just a bag of dried beans and some vegetables.
There were even two beautiful hunks of bone after I removed the ham hock from the soup, which means that we will dine to the satisfied crunching of two well-pleased dogs.
Basic Bean Soup
(Adapted from allrecipes.com)
* 1 pound dry great Northern beans
* 8 cups water
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1 ham hock
* 1 cup chopped carrots
* 1/2 stalk celery, chopped
* 1 cup chopped onion
* 1 teaspoon minced garlic
* 1 teaspoon mustard powder
* 2 bay leaves
* 2 cups chopped ham
* 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
1. Rinse the beans, sorting out any broken or discolored ones. In a large pot over high heat, bring the water to a boil. Add the salt and the beans and remove from heat. Let beans sit in the hot water for at least 60 minutes. While the beans are softening, chop vegetables and (if necessary) remove ham from the bone and set aside.
2. After the 60 minutes of soaking, return the pot to high heat and place the ham bone, carrots, celery, onion, garlic, mustard and bay leaves in the pot. Stir well, bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for 60 more minutes. If you like, you may keep the soup simmering over low heat for longer; just add a little water if it looks more like stew than soup as the beans absorb the water.
3. Remove ham bone and discard. Stir in the chopped ham and simmer for 30 more minutes. Season with ground white pepper to taste. If you’ve added water, you’ll definitely need to season again.