My Contribution to Global Warming
In winter, I love cooking up bean soup. Something about creamy beans, salty smoked ham shanks and onions cooked together that transcends their humble demeanor. It also means that I have to stock up on air freshener and Beano. Like anything else in life, there is always a trade off, isn’t there?
Personally, I use a crock pot for my white bean soup. A lot of books I have read say they don’t like the texture of the beans cooked this way, but my family has never complained. True, they are not as creamy as stovetop beans, but I also can throw the mess in the crock and then schlep myself to work. To me, that convenience offsets any real sacrifice in texture.
For the meat in this dish, I usually use ham hocks or shanks. The ham hocks you get at your regular grocery store tend to suck. That was not always the case, but in the past ten years or so, I have been very disappointed with the size and quality of most commercial products. Schuman’s to the rescue again!! I picked up one of their smoked ham shanks last time I dropped the national debt there, and it was wonderful. Meaty with a good smoky taste. I also had the shank split in two so that the marrow would cook out into the beans.
Carrying on the tradition of my mother, I use Great Northern beans. How do these differ from Navy beans? I have no freaking idea. But Mom used them and that’s good enough for me. My dad loved her bean soup and my hubby loves mine. Nuff’ said.
So here ya go - my bean soup is not a science - it’s a zen kinda thing. Once you get it, you’ll know.
Rosie’s Bean Soup
2 pounds dried Great Northern beans, picked over and rinsed
2 medium onions, peeled and cut in half
1 to 2 pounds of ham shanks or hocks
3 bay leaves
salt, pepper, garlic powder
Equipment: 6 qt crock pot
Throw onions, beans and ham shanks into the crock. Add the bay leaves, salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste. (Be careful with the salt, as the ham will have varying degrees of saltiness. I usually check the crock when I get home and taste the stock that forms. If it isn’t very salty, I add more.)
Fill the crock up with water to the top, turn on low and cover. If you are home, stir occasionally and check seasoning. If not, don’t sweat it. It will still be good.
Cooking time will range from eight to twelve hours depending on your crock pot, the amount of moisture in the beans, the phase of the moon, etc.
When the beans are done, they will be soft all the way through and have a good flavor. Pull out the shanks/hocks and let cool some. Be careful removing them, as there may be small bones that will escape into your pot. Make sure you remove any escaped bones unless you really want to take a trip to the dentist. Strip the meat off the bone and return to the pot.
Serve soup with fresh chopped onion and some hot sauce. Corn bread is nice on the side along with some greens if you have them. Sautéed spinach is a winner too. Failing that, make a nice bread and butter sandwich and dip it in the soup. Taste-tee!
Yield: about 4 qts of soup and several millimeters off the ozone layer