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jjmtacoma's picture

Simple Navy (great northern) bean soup - the way my Grandmother made it. She doesn't cook much these days, but I'll never forget the very simple creamy soup my grandmother made for me when life seemed too hard. She didn't measure... Of course!

Did I mention this is very simple?

1/2 bag dried great northern beans, rinsed in a strainer
1 cup of cubed ham
salt and pepper to taste

Place the rinsed beans in a large dutch oven and fill with water to about 3" from the top. Boil the beans until they pop, the outer skins will pop and they will get a little soft. It seems like it takes about 1/2 hour to get the beans to start to soften. Continue to boil them but reduce the heat a little so they don't boil over. Put the ham on a shallow baking sheet and bake at 425 degrees for about 15 minutes or until it just starts to brown, you want the juices on the pan to look carmel-like. Pour the ham and any juice into the boiling beans and reduce the heat to a simmer. Add salt (maybe a teaspoon, I put a dime to a quarter size puddle in the palm of my hand and then taste it after a while to see if it needs more) and pepper and continue to simmer until the beans are very soft and the broth looks like a cream sauce. I've added diced carots without changing the flavor too much. I've also added canned crushed tomatoes, onions and garlic and it was good too - but it wasn't grandma's soup.

Serve with a couple dashes of hot pepper sauce (like Red Devil or Tobasco) and cornbread, of course! Fresh mellon makes a nice side dish.

I am sure this could be made in a small batch if you don't want to eat the stuff for a week.

Here's a trick with cornbread if you live alone or don't need to eat the whole thing: make it in muffin tins and freeze the corn muffins you don't need. They thaw out on the counter in an hour or less.

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Submitted by PA_Lady on

My recipe, like most of them, comes from my grandmother who believed you could never have too much butter. I use much less -- about a half-stick or so -- and a diced onion (or two).

Occasionally I use bacon instead of ham, and cholesterol-freak that I am, I don't even drain the grease before tossing it in the pot. (Not recommended, but oh so good!)

jjmtacoma's picture
Submitted by jjmtacoma on

Oh man! I bet butter would be super good. Onions would be good too - I will have to try that, maybe my kids will eat it again.

Do you pull the bacon out while the beans cook? I've had bacon get soggy... there is this nice "country bacon" that a butcher near my house sells. It is a cured pork thing that has a bit less fat than regular bacon. I'll have to try it - with the butter!

Submitted by PA_Lady on

Cooking the bacon is supposed to keep it from getting soggy, but "liquid+meat+time=soft," in my experience.

I leave the bacon in, but that's because it's there more for flavor than anything. My mom usually waits until the last hour of simmering and then cooks the bacon to "extra-crispy" before adding it to the soup. The bacon in her soup does tend to be more firm than in mine.

Submitted by lambert on

Thanks!

(Are there ways to preserve meals that don't require a freezer? I'm not talking about seasonal batch preparation, like canning, but preserving on a meal-by-meal basis. I mean, suppose I fill up the freezer and then the power cuts off, whether through infrastructure or a shut-off notice?)

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Submitted by jjmtacoma on

TLC

I don't really know though. I have a "food saver" that seals plastic bags around food to be saved and works great for extending freezer life but not so much for wet food. I've also smoked salmon and meats which extends the shelf life some. But I haven't made jerky yet... I need to try that.

Out here we can find salmon on sale for $3-$4 per pound (whole) for chum or silver salmon during the summer months. Also, some groceries will clean out the freezer this time of year to make room for the fresh catch and some more oily varieties will be cheap for the frozen or previously frozen fish. Smoking doesn't care if the fish was previously frozen.

I guess I could try salmon jerky and there are varying opinions about how long it will keep before entering the science experiment stage.

Submitted by hipparchia on

here in hurricane country, where power outages happen almost exclusively in the hottest part of the year, we run into this a lot. solidly frozen food will generally keep for a couple of days if the freezer is full and the thermostat was set to its coldest temp and you don't open the freezer while the power is off.

sadly, canning and freezing are pretty much your only two options for fixing meals/dishes ahead of time and saving them for later.

Submitted by PA_Lady on

Other than canning or freezing, there really isn't a safe method of preserving meals. (At least, during the warm months. In the winter, you can use the outdoors as a natural freezer.

I'm trying to find a link, but I recently read an article about creating an eco-friendly ice house in your backyard that will keep everything frozen. (Probably at Mother Earth News.) It might not be workable during the warmest months, but the advent of summer would be a good reason to clean out the fridge, so to speak, and have a big feast for friends and family.

ETA: Two links on building an ice house, from Mother Earth News and Planet Green.

caseyOR's picture
Submitted by caseyOR on

In my version of this soup, I add onion and garlic and flat leaf parsley and a bit if celery (leaves included). The celery and parsley give it a nice bright flavor that mellows out the fatty richness of the meat. I add the vegies to the pot when the beans are approx. halfway cooked.

For the meat I throw a ham hock or a smoked turkey leg in the pot with the beans. If you want to make a smaller batch of soup, you can ask your butcher to crack the ham hock or turkey leg (cut it into thirds on the butcher's saw.) The remaining pieces of hock or leg can be frozen for future soup.

Any creamy bean will work. I've used navy beans, great northern and yellow eye, and they all make a fine soup.

Submitted by PA_Lady on

If you start with rinsed beans and water on low heat, plan on at least 20-24 hours before it's ready to eat.

You can cut this somewhat, by putting the crockpot on high for 4-5 hours before switching to the low setting. (Just keep an eye on the water level so you don't scorch the beans.) This way, if you start the soup in the evening and turn the heat down before bed, it'll be ready for lunch the next day.

Submitted by hipparchia on

i cook all my dried beans in my crockpot. it helps if you can boil the beans first for several minutes in a large saucepan before transferring them to the crockpot. i've tried the trick of leaving the crockpot on high for the first 4-5 hours, but you do have to remember to turn it down to low for the rest of the time. mostly though, i prefer to not wash any extra dishes or set any timers so i just cook them forEVER [~24 hours] on low in the crockpot.

i've read that dried beans that have been stored for more than a year are tougher and require much more cooking.