Here is another soup recipe that just takes me back to my childhood in the Northeast. I grew up in the hard coal region of Pennsylvania. During the summer all of us kids looked forward to the many picnics put on by the fire companies and churches. My favorites the Polish Church picnic and one of the fire companies. They were called “hoses” and pronounced “hosiees”. I don’t know why. Maybe because they were fire hose stations. It is part of the local lingo of the coal region. Anyway, even in the heat of the summer soups were the most popular food at the picnics. Other food included perogies, halupkis, haluskie and so on. Being of various Eastern European ethnic backgrounds anything made from cabbage, potato and onion were a staple food for my people.
Last week I just got hungry for good old fashioned bean. Nothing fancy, just peasant food. My brother agrees that this recipe has the flavor of picnic bean soup from our childhood. I teamed this cheddar buttermilk biscuits but you can use a hearty, crusty bread just as well. I hope you enjoy.
1 pound dried Navy Beans or Cannellini Beans.
Water enough to cover by 3 inches to soak overnight
2 cans (12 ozs each) Beer. I used Strohs. Anyway lager type will do
12 cups Water
2 Smoked ham hocks or ham bones
6 slices of Bacon, cut into 1 inch pieces
1/2 teaspoon dried Thyme or 4 sprigs fresh Thyme
3 Carrots, peeled and medium size diced
2 Celery ribs, medium size diced
1 Onion, medium size dice. Type is your choice. I like sweet but any kind will do
1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1 teaspoon fresh ground Black Pepper
1 1/2 cup of diced Ham, style is your choice. I have used thick sliced lunch meat, canned ham and cooked smoked ham. All are fine.
Put the beans in a large bowl, rinse and check for stones. Then cover with the soaking water. Let them soak overnight or at least 8 hours. When soaking is complete drain the beans and set aside. Put the beer and 11 cups of water into a soup pot. I like to use my cast iron Dutch Oven for this. Put the ham hocks or bones and the bacon into the beer/water mixture. Over medium high heat bring it to a boil. Reduce to simmer, uncovered for an hour. Don’t worry if it goes over an hour. It’s all good.
Add the beans and the thyme and simmer for another hour at least.
After simmering for an hour add the carrots, celery and onion. Add salt and pepper and season to taste. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for an hour.
Remove the ham hocks and bones. Allow to cool so you can get the rest of the meat off the bones. Now some people throw away the skin and bones. I give them to my dogs. It adds some good fat to their diet and the bones clean their teeth. Plus they love it. It a home cooked treat.
Using an immersion blender, food processor, blender or even a good old fashioned potato masher, puree half of the beans and veg. This thickens the soup nicely giving you that hearty food feel. Add in the rest of the ham. Season again to taste and serve. This soup did not last long in my house. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.