Happy New Year! With a chill in the air and the first nor'easter for the New England area being only 24 hours away, nothing warms you up like a bowl of hearty ham and bean soup. Since we served a large ham to our family and friends at Christmas, we had one large ham bone that still had some meaty value. We aren't big split pea soup fans so we decided to look for a ham soup that served like a stew. With the white beans and vegetables, I knew this was going to be perfect.
As we were putting the soup together, many things came to mind as I was reflecting on where Friends Food Family has been and where it is going. I am a baking "nut" and I love dessert, so many of my recipes focus on the sugary end of the food chain. I also know that healthy eating and healthy choices are still very popular. I feel like our eating is healthy but it could stand to lose a few sticks of butter. As I look at recipes in 2014, we'd love to hear from you...
What types of recipes would you like to see us try in 2014? American? Italian? French? Lebanese? Greek? Chinese? Vegetarian? More desserts? Or maybe it's Quick and Easy? 5 Steps? Crock Pot Ready? Think of some ideas and pass them our way. We love a challenge!
So, back to the recipe...
During the first few months of the year, we like to find hearty soup recipes. We do this for two reasons:
1. It's a meal in a bowl. We don't have to worry about making side dishes for the main course.
2. They make great lunches for the following days. I'm bad about bringing lunch to work, but with leftover soup, we package it in small bowls and you can grab them from the refrigerator as you head out the door.
We had the ham bone so now we just needed the recipe. Jeff searched on-line for a ham soup recipe and ended up finding this recipe on Food.com. The recipe was posted back in 2005 and had 31 reviews, all of them were 4 and 5 stars. If it was a good recipe, we need to try it. This Neighborhood Ham and Bean Soup makes a batch that can feed 10+ people. We completely understand why they call it neighborhood soup...it could feed the neighborhood. If you are planing to make this soup, give yourself some time. This is a day long process. We made ours on Sunday, we started the soup around 11 AM, soak the beans (an hour), let it cook for two hours, added a few more ingredients and then it cooked for another hour. By the time we were done, it was a 5-6 hour process before we sat down to enjoy a bowl, but it was worth it. We changed the recipe a bit and added some additional beans to "chunk up" the soup and we also added a few parsnips. They were in the refrigerator, why let them go to waste.
The soup was AMAZING. It had a nice smokey flavor from the ham bone along with the creaminess of the beans. A few chunky pieces of potato and parsnip brought a nice flavor to the soup. Though it takes a while to put together, the results are worth every minute. Football season isn't over yet and if you have time on a Sunday to start the process around 10 AM, you will have an unbelievable meal for dinner. One that the whole neighborhood will enjoy.
Ingredients for Neighborhood Ham and Bean Soup -
- 2 cups of dried great northern beans
- 1 (15 ounce) can of northern beans, drained and rinsed
- 3 cups of water
- 1 large meaty ham bone (if you don't have one, you can use 2-3 smoked ham hocks)
- 2-3 tablespoons of chicken bouillon granules
- 1 teaspoon of dried thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon of dried marjoram
- 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon of dry rubbed sage
- 1 medium onion, chopped (1/2 inch thickness)
- 3 medium carrots, chopped
- 2 parsnips (don't worry if you don't have them, we added them because we did), chopped
- 2 celery stalks, chopped
- 1 large potato, cut into 1 inch cubes
- 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
- 2 cups of chicken broth (on hand in case you need to add more liquid)
1. Place dried beans in a large dutch oven and cover with water, 2 inches above the beans. Bring to a boil, boil for two minutes, remove from heat, cover and let stand for 1 hour. Drain beans.
2. Place beans back in the pan and add the water, ham bone, chicken bouillon, thyme, marjoram, pepper, and sage. Bring mixture to a boil.
3. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 2-3 hours. If you are in a hurry, you can simmer for 2 hours, but it can be extended out to 3 hours. If you find the liquid is getting low, you can add a bit of chicken stock.
4. In a separate sauce pan, over medium heat, add the vegetable oil and saute the onions, carrots and celery. If you are using the parsnip, add it now. Saute until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes.
5. At the end of the 2+ hours, add the onion mixture, along with the chopped potato to the ham mixture, cover and simmer for another hour. Add more chicken stock if you feel the mixture is getting low.
6. Take the ham bone out of the pot and debone. Cut any large pieces into chunks. Return the ham to the soup.
7. Put the 1/2 the can of rinsed beans into a food processor with a 1/4 cup of chicken stock. Pulsate until the beans are smooth with a few chunks. Pour the beans into the soup. If you would like the soup thicker, finish the other half of the beans.
8. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with your favorite cornbread.
Makes enough for 10 people. Enjoy!