Lately I have been craving heavy filling soups. Soups that feel like a hug when you take a bite. I have always loved soups but I think part of this new found obsession comes from the lack of seasons where we live, Puerto Rico. I have been craving a trip “north” to Florida so that I can experience a snap of cold weather and actually “feel” like it is winter.
On those days that I am really missing Florida seasons, 50 degrees for 3 days, I just turn my AC as cold as it can go, put jeans and a sweater on and make soup! Last time I “dressed cold” the mailman knocked on the door and thought I was crazy… But I digress…
After weeks of searching, I finally found a nice looking ham, with the bone in, so I was really excited to get to make bean soup! I had these two bags of beans in my pantry for months just waiting for the right ham to scream BUY ME!!! I could have just used ham chunks but there is something about making bean soup with a nice ham with the bone in… It was a small ham, so I supplemented with a ham steak that I picked up because I like LOTS of ham in my soup… another one of those small things in life that makes me happy.
Here is what you will need to make a yummy, delicious bean soup that feels like it is giving you a hug:
Ham with the bone in (aim for about 2 lbs of usable meat to shred)
2 bags of dried beans. I used one bag of “16 bean soup” and one bag of small white beans
1 large onion chopped
2 cups of carrots chopped
3 bay leaves
2 Tbsp dried minced garlic or to taste
salt and pepper to taste
First step is to soak your dried beans, it is best to do this over night but there are quicker methods if you forgot and still want to make your soup today. There should be directions on your bag of dried beans but if not you can check out these options here.
Fill your large stock up back up with water so that there is at least 3-4 inches of water covering your beans. Put your ham into the pot, adding water if needed to cover the ham and beans, turn it up to Med-High heat to get it going. There is a lot of water so I like starting it on high to speed up the process.
While you are waiting for it to boil, chop your carrots and onion and add those to the pot along with the bay leaves and garlic.
Bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer. Add water as necessary to keep everything in the water, depending on the method you used to soaked your beans and how long you soaked them, the beans will absorb different amounts of water as they cook, so check on them every 10 minutes or so.
Your soaking method and time will also cause the cook time to be different, check the beans after about 30 minutes to see how tender they are. You don’t want them to get mushy and be falling apart. Beans that are soaked the longest usually start to be “done” cooking about 30-45 minutes at a simmer.
After about 30-40 minutes of cooking, I pull the ham out and shred it and put the chunks back into the soup. Discard the bone and other fat trimmings.
If you prefer a thicker soup like me, you can thicken the broth by putting about a cup of almost cooked beans into a food processor and purring until almost smooth. You want to wait until the beans are almost done to do this so you can remove a little excess broth if necessary. This part is entirely up to personal preference so there is no “right amount” of broth to have or beans to puree and add back in. Keep messing with it until it is the consistency that you like. Personally I take some broth out of the beans before I add the puree and I reserve it on the side, that way if it gets too tick I can add some of the broth back in rather than plain water.
Continue simmering the soup until the beans reach your desired level of tenderness.
Salt and pepper to taste. Serve you soup with rolls or cornbread to complete the meal.