Saturday, November 1, 2008

Ham and Bean Soup: Crockpot Style

This is another one of my mama's specialties although I have some pretty fond memories of eating this soup with my Grandma Boots. This is the ubiquitous Ewing recipe for ham & bean soup - grandma always made this in her stockpot, my mom modified it to make in her 6 qt. Crockpot. Mom always has a crock of this ready if I'm coming home for a weekend and leaves it on the "low" or "keep warm" setting until it's gone or until she's packing me some leftovers to take home. This is one of those soups that just gets better as it sits:

Ham & Bean Soup - crockpot method

1 lb. dried white beans (I use great northern, baby limas are also good)
1 ham hock (look near the chicken gizzards if you're having a hard time finding this rarity)
3 carrots, sliced (since this is overnight, kind of give 'em a medium density so they don't fall apart in your crock)
2 celery, sliced
**Mom has also been known to peel and slice a couple of potatoes into her crockpot ... it's good, but these days I'm trying to avoid carbohydrate overload. But I'm eating bean soup ... never mind.

Dump the lot together in a 6-quart crockpot, fill the rest of the space with water and start cooking overnight on the "low" setting. (No sense in rushing this awesomeness.) In the morning, the hock will be ready to strip the meat that's hunkering around the bone. It's kind of a disgusting process, but take a slotted spoon, take the hock out and use a fork to get the good stuff away from the fat and the bone and put it back into the soup. If you've cooked this for a good 8 or so hours, the beans will be tender enough to eat, but if you're from my family - why would you? Park your crockpot at the "keep warm" setting. This soup will be darn near perfect at around lunch time. It will be even better for dinner. (This is the point where Ryan is glaring at me to shut the crock pot off. So I will, my mom probably wouldn't.)

Bean soup freezes relatively well (if you have any leftovers ...), but I'm warning you - this needs a ton of salt. I usually let people add their own, but it definitely needs some sodium. You could probably toss a bay leaf in as well when this is cooking, but other than salt and pepper, I keep the spices to a minimum. This soup will stand on its own.

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