Ham and Bean Soup


This is a lighter version than most ham-and-beans I’ve encountered–more like a vegetable soup with the addition of the namesake ingredients.

I made this soup the night I got home from the Farmers Market Workshop in Rapid City, and it really hit the spot for something warm and wholesome–something that made me feel like I was home.

Now I’m making it again on the night before I leave for the Northern Plains Sustainable Ag Winter Conference because I need to use up the rest of the ham, and I want H to have something ready-to-eat in the fridge (yes, he’s perfectly capable of feeding himself, but it makes me feel good to leave him something nourishing).

First, I heated up about a tablespoon of butter in my soup pot, and chopped up 4 organic carrots and peeled (the wax) and chopped 3 parsnips to put in the butter.  If you had celery, you could add some of that, too–a couple of stalks.

While the “harder” veggies were simmering in the butter, I sliced a yellow onion to throw in. On my first batch, I also added a couple of small scrubbed-and-diced potatoes.

Then came a few slices of ham–the total amount was about a cup or so, chopped–I used more on tonight’s batch because I’m trying to use it up.  I also took out about 1/2 cup of chopped green peppers from the freezer–you’d chop and add these earlier if it was a fresh pepper–don’t add yet if it’s frozen.

Once the carrots, parsnips, and onions were starting to get tender, I threw in some thyme, oregano, and celery seed (you wouldn’t use that if you had celery stalks) and some hot pepper flakes.  Then in went the ham and green peppers, plus a crushed and minced clove of garlic.

I put in a rounded teaspoon of homemade bouillon–you could use a cube added at the same time as the liquid.  Because of the salt in the bouillon and the ham, I didn’t add any more salt to the soup.  Extra salt is totally up to you.

Then, I poured myself a very full glass of wine and dumped half of it in the pot.  I let the veggies simmer in that for a bit before adding a bay leaf and a pint jar of tomato sauce, plus an equal amount of water (I just filled the jar with water, shook, and dumped).

The beans I used are my own canned shell beans (a pint jar), so they go in at the end to get heated up–otherwise they’d turn to absolute mush.  If you use dried beans, you’d want to soak and cook ahead.  If you use store-bought canned beans, add them according to how hard they are coming out of the can and how you’d like them in the finished soup.

I also added (along with the beans) a frozen cube of olive-oil pureed basil and some twists of black pepper.  Heat through and serve.

The finished product is, as I said, lighter and more vegetable-laden than a traditional ham and bean, but still very satisfying because of all the root veggies–zesty like summer, but filling like winter.  It’s good served with a grating of American Grana, Parmesan, or Romano cheese.

Local ingredients: onions, garlic, homemade bouillon, tomato sauce, shell beans, basil, hot pepper, green peppers, potatoes (1st batch).

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