I received several requests for my recipe for Navy Bean Soup. This is a “from scratch” left-overs recipe and the quantities are imprecise because it all depends. How much meat you have drives the quantities of the other ingredients. How much onion? How much do you want? I use a LOT. I have never managed to put too many herbs in soup, so I keep increasing the amounts. I’m only 72, so I still have time to sort this all out. Practice makes perfect. Other possible ingredients include tomatoes and other vegetables, herbs, spices and canned broth (vegetable or chicken). I have some frozen ginger left-over from Christmas cocktails that I envision cooking with a whole frozen Costco chicken that will be my next soup, following the same strategies outlined below. As Julie Child so charmingly said on her TV program: Bon appétit!
Ingredients Leftover ham on the bone Fresh or dried herbs such as parsley, savory, thyme, and oregano Barley Onion Carrots Celery
Day One This recipe starts with left over honey-baked or spiral sliced or other ham on the bone. Mine was frozen leftovers from Christmas. Place in a large pot that has a lid. Cover with water. Heat to a boil. Lower heat to simmer, covering partially with lid. You can add some of your fresh herbs now without having to prepare them. Cook for an hour or more, until meat is falling off the bone. Turn off heat.
Prepare a large bowl with large mesh colander. Cut a large piece of cheese cloth so that it fills the colander and hangs over the sides several inches.
Use a slotted spoon and/or tongs to remove pieces of the meat into the colander set up. Let it cool until easy to handle and then separate the meat into a storage container, leaving as much fat and all the bone behind. Keep straining out the meat, bone, and fat from the broth until you have processed all the meat. Cut up the largest pieces into 1” sections. Store the finished meat, covered, in the fridge.
Now pour the rest of the broth through the cheese cloth lined colander, catching it in the bowl. This will take at least two operations. Lift the colander onto a pie plate to catch the drips and pour or ladle the strained broth into storage containers. Repeat the process. On the last batch gather up the corners of the cheese cloth so that you can squeeze as much broth and grease as possible out of the discards. This is your flavor.
Refrigerate the broth, throw away the discards, and wash a ton of dirty dishes.
Set up to soak overnight a pound of navy beans, or white beans of some kind, loosely covered. Follow the directions on the package regarding rinsing. A quicker method of preparing the beans can be done on day two: rinse, put in a pot with water to cover at least an inch, bring to a boil, turn off, cover with lid, let sit for an hour.
Day Two Put broth in large pot. Turn heat to high. Rinse beans and add to broth. When it comes to a boil, turn down to simmer and partially cover with the pot lid. Add ½ to 1 cup barley if you like. It will thicken it and it adds a different texture.
Prepare vegetables by washing, peeling, and cutting into 1” chunks or to your preference. Don’t make the pieces too small or it will all turn to mush in the long cooking.
Good vegetables are one big onion, 4 or more large carrots, and 6 or more stalks of celery. If it seems too thick, add some vegetable or chicken broth to thin it out.
After the beans are soft and the vegetables are cooked, at least an hour, I added 6 good sized tomatoes, blanched with a cross (35 seconds, plunge in ice water), peeled and cut into ½” cubes. This is not traditional, but I had them about to go bad and they added good flavor and color to the soup. Use your imagination / your leftovers.
Using cheese cloth, tie up some sprigs of fresh herbs. I used thyme, savory, oregano, and parsley. I just knotted the corners to the middle to keep them from falling out. Put this bouquet garni into the soup, getting it down in there, covered, but don’t break it open.
Alternatively, close to the end of the cooking time, add whatever dried herbs or spices appeal to you. If you ground up some fresh cumin seeds it would not be traditional, but I’ll bet it would taste good.
Serve with salt and pepper. There is no need to put in salt and pepper – the ham is probably salty, and these condiments are best added at the table.
Store the rest, remembering to divide the meat between the containers, as well as the broth. The soup will thicken in the fridge and you can thin it out with canned broth when you reheat it.
Alternative Strategies Sometimes I just get ham at the supermarket deli, sliced 1/3” thick, and cut it into cubes. Then I add the meat with the vegetables on Day Two. Sometimes I used canned beans. Combined with the deli ham means it can be cooked in one day, but you’ll need to use canned broth. I might put in leftover rice instead of barley. Use what’s handy to make each pot unique.
1/28/24 Dr. P-J Leave a comment on the blog page if you would like to see more recipes.