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e_moon60

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Bean Jar Soup [Jan. 1st, 2015|12:39 pm]
e_moon60
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[Current Mood |awake]

Years ago, when we lived in a different place with a reliable water supply, we grew a garden that included beans to dry for later.   Because we were trying things out, initially, we grew a small amount of several varieties, and that meant--once they were dry and in jars--that we didn't have enough of any one of them to make a big pot of bean soup.  So I combined them.  And the soup was better, with the mix of flavors.  Since then, whether we had a garden or not, I've always had a big jar (BIG old pickle jar) of mixed beans.  Anything we can grow and dry goes into it, plus a pound package each of whatever dried beans we find in the grocery store, aiming for variety.  (Scarlet runner beans add a lovely flavor but you don't find them dried in stores--you have to grow them.  And unlike some other beans, they really want a lot of water--which, lately, we haven't had.)   But at least, black-eyed peas, red kidney beans, black beans, pinto beans, and white beans. The big jar depletes through the year, sometimes faster and sometimes slower, and when it's empty, I fill it again with another mix of beans.

Bean Jar Soup is an excellent soup to make in cold weather, the nastier, colder, and wetter,  the better.  It warms the kitchen as it cooks, and it warms the person eating it.   If we've caught one of the holiday viruses, it's a nourishing meal with relatively little work, and the pot liquor of a good bean jar soup does wonders for a sore throat.    I cook a ham maybe three times a year, and the ham bones go into freezer for the next bean soup...except that the Christmas ham bone goes into the New Year's Day bean soup.

Bean Jar Soup is not so much a recipe as a tradition.   A ham bone with shreds of ham on it (a chunk of salt pork will do if you don't have a ham bone),  an onion or two thin-sliced or chopped,  4-6 or more cloves of garlic, 4 cups (or 5, if it's down to the end of the jar, or less than 4 if there's not 4 cups left) of mixed dried beans.  The New Year's Day Bean Jar Soup benefits from having all the pan juices of the Christmas ham in it as well, which means some mustard and pear jam (glaze on the ham).  The beans have been soaked a good long time (black beans, in particular, benefit from longer soaking, and we aren't modernists who go all fussy if the beans aren't al dente.  Bean Jar Soup is comfort food--you don't want to be breaking your teeth on a hard one, or get mouthful of dry-floury bean innards. They should be soft.)

With the ham bone and pan juice in the bottom of a 10-12 quart pot, add in the beans, the onion(s), the garlic and bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer.   Although it's nice to have the onion and garlic prepped ahead of time, it's not necessary--if it goes in later, it's not a disaster, because of the long cooking time.  Then let it alone, barring an occasional stir.   Depending on the saltiness of the ham,  you may need to add some salt, and some pepper can go in early or later.  You can add other spices if you want (I sometimes do, though not to the New Year's version) but the main thing is to let it cook until the pot liquor is densely opaque, a rich, velvety delight.   It will start smelling good early on.   Don't be tempted.  Keep it on the burner.  It will smell better.   Ignore it except to check the fluid level and stir.  (Beans will glue themselves to the bottom of a pot and burn.)   It will smell better than before.  Hold out...the longer it goes, the better it is.  (In fact, you can't get it to its best in less than 8 hours, although it's usually delicious by 4 hours in.) When temptation's about to overcome you, test one of the black beans.  They're the slowest to cooperate in the "give up and be soft" struggle (of the beans I use.)  Then find one of the garlic cloves (why I leave them whole in this) and see that it's soft as well--completely cooked.  When the black beans and garlic cloves are soft, it's time for a first dish of soup.

It's also a time you can make the best bean dip you ever had in your life.   Put a cup of the beans (no big hunks of ham)  in a deep bowl or heavy jar and hit it with an immersion blender (stick blender) .  Then stir in the finely diced hot pepper of your choice (or not-it's up to you) and bring out the tortilla chips.

But back to the soup.   Say it's a cold, dank, night and you've come in tired, not even that hungry because all your muscles have tightened up against the cold and wet, and winter's a long way from over.  And there's the Bean Jar Soup, hot, steamy, sending that bean-and-ham fragrance into your head.  Dip out a bowl of it.  If you have cornbread, that's a bonus, but if not, any other will do.   If you like spicy, toss a spoonful of something--diced jalapeno, Tabasco sauce, a good hot salsa--on top, and then start eating.   All the goodness of the beans starts flowing into you; you don't have to chew or anything, just savor it in your mouth and swallow.  At some point, with me, my eyes open back up all the way, the feeling of being cold, tired, out of energy or caring fades, and I'm restored to my normal sels: awake, interested, a lot less inclined to crawl into the sack and pull the blankets over my head.

Like most homemade soups, it's even better the second day, but it's also a good soup for freezing, because sometimes you need a slug of bean soup when you haven't realized it the day before (and thus didn't soak beans overnight.)   And in summer, you may want to eat bean soup but not want to heat the kitchen up enough to make it.

Just had a test bowl of today's.  The white beans were contributing to the pot liquor; the kidney beans and black-eyes peas were soft but still togehter, and some of the black beans required chewing and were slightly floury inside.  Yup, at four hours it's not really ready.  The pot liquor was opaque but not that opaque.   It should look like gravy, not soup juice.  The meat hasn't all fallen off the ham bone.   So another couple-three hours should make a big difference.

You can dress up Bean Jar Soup with grated cheese on top, or diced raw onion, or parsley,  or cilantro, or pretty much whatever you want: diced tomato, diced hot pepper, croutons...but it's good right out of the pot on its own and even slightly underdone (what I just ate) it's sustaining food.  (I might put another onion in, and the rest of the garlic...or not.)

When it's done, I'll take a picture and add it to this post.


New-Year's-bean-soup
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: saare_snowqueen
2015-01-01 07:24 pm (UTC)
That looks a treat. I was eyeing some smoked pigs feet at the meat lady's the other day. Next time I'm in town.....
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2015-01-01 10:53 pm (UTC)
I've never used pigs' feet in beans, but should work well, I'd think.
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[User Picture]From: elessa
2015-01-01 07:44 pm (UTC)
Now I am salivating and wanting a bowl of bean soup. My mother would make a white bean soup with ham hock. Similar in having it simmer on the burner all day wafting its scent through the house.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2015-01-01 10:55 pm (UTC)
Where I grew up, pinto beans were the standard dried bean, though you could usually get kidney beans too, and black-eyed peas. But yeah--any dried beans slow-cooked with a hunk of pork. I'm eating "mess o' beans" as I write this. Took the picture of 'em just minutes ago.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2015-01-01 10:55 pm (UTC)
That's what my mouth is saying. (But the mouth *critic* is saying "That second onion would've been a good idea.)
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2015-01-01 10:56 pm (UTC)
Should I add bean soup to the T-day menu? I'll bet George makes a good bean soup.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2015-01-02 08:00 pm (UTC)
I grew up on the pinto bean version, but--not kidding you--mixing the beans really does improve it. And garlic, if you're not averse to it.

My Aunt Rena (not blood relative, but a wonderful person) made better bean soup than my mother (who made superb beef vegetable and chicken soup, but that's another post.) Anyway, Aunt Rena said once of a pot of beans, "You can't have too much pork, you can't have too much salt, and you can't cook it too long." She used salt pork mostly. I find the bone off one of those spiral sliced hams works well, in part because they don't slice it to the bone all the way back, and when I've wrestled off all the easily removed chunks of ham, there's still plenty of ham bits still adhering. Although those hams are, as I'm sure you know, not a patch on the hams of our youth, those nice firm, dry-cured hams you had to boil some of the salt off of before you baked 'em. Or so my mother said. ANYway, today's readily available hams are on the mild side, so more salt's needed in the soup.
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[User Picture]From: gifted
2015-01-02 11:01 pm (UTC)
Mm yes! Our fam likes a mix of beans in a creamy vege curry. So good!
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2015-01-04 03:25 am (UTC)
And the big bean jar is now full again, plus a smaller one because I bought one more pound bag of beans than would fit (well--about half of it fit.) There's now 4 cups of mixed beans in the smaller jar. Red kidney beans, small red beans (different red, more brown), black beans, small white beans, black-eyed peas, pinto beans, Anasazi beans (more pinto than pinto--dark-to-red brown on white--rather like very small scarlet runner beans).

The multi-bean mixes they now sell are filled in with split peas or lentils, but I don't like lentils in my bean soup. Lentils are lentils (though I usually mix a few beans in for more flavor) and peas are peas. But that's just me--others may like them mixed in.
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[User Picture]From: saare_snowqueen
2015-01-07 10:07 am (UTC)
We get a very limited choice of beans here on Saaremaa and Estonia, which is peculiar, in a way, because we have the right climate to grow many of the ones I like best. Borlottis are you listening.

Am going to a conference over the weekend on Promoting Shorter Supply Chains for Local Foods. Going to buttonhole some of my farmer friends about this serious gap.
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[User Picture]From: coalboy
2015-01-07 10:15 pm (UTC)
My mother made a Portuguese 7-bean soup but only seldom: it had smoked ham hocks in it as well & getting the meat off the bones was a chore. She got the recipe in Honolulu, where cooking something that long was not fun because of heat. But oh so delicious!
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