December 6, 2008

Jones Tasty Hearty Healthy Beanie Soup

My brother, sister, Mark, and I are in love with what we like to call MomSpeak, MomSpeak being the hilarious and adorable emails that my mom sends to all of us. After more than 25 years in this country, her English is very good (she regularly beats all of us in Scrabble, to my dad's chagrin) but she has a really funny habit of mixing metaphors or using words that aren't necessarily used in casual conversation. We never know what she is going to say next.

A few months ago she sent my sister the recipe for her ham and bean soup and, inexplicably, called the recipe "Jones Tasty Hearty Healthy Beanie Soup." As far as I can remember, we always referred to this soup as plain old bean soup. But from now on I will always call it Jones Tasty Hearty Healthy Beanie Soup.

We ate this all the time when we were kids, probably because my dad grew up eating this and loves it. And why not? Jones Tasty Hearty Healthy Beanie Soup is indeed Tasty, with creamy beans, salty and smoky ham, and a smidge of sweetness from softened carrots, onion, and celery. It is Hearty, really more of a stew than a soup, and (I'm quoting my mom here) is "perfect for a bone chilling day." Finally, this soup is Healthy, the beans --excuse me, beanies-- provide a wallop of fiber and protein. The name is apt. Good job, Mom.

Unfortunately, I don't have a photo for you, because my brother inhaled everything before I had a chance to take one. Instead, I offer this, as a reminder to stock up on clementines!

Jones Tasty Hearty Healthy Beanie Soup

My mom says that ham shanks are preferable to ham hocks because they provide more meat for the soup. However, when I went to the grocery store, there were no ham shanks to be found. Instead I bought 2 large ham hocks and a ham steak. By the way, I think 1 pound of beans is roughly $1.00, the ham shanks were $2.50, and the ham steak was on sale for $3.80. This is recession-friendly fare! This soup filled our le Creuset French oven (which is 5.5 quarts of beautiful red enameled cast iron) almost all the way to the top, so you will need a large vessel in which to make this soup.

1 pound dry white beans, such as cannellini (my preference) or navy beans
1-2 pounds of ham shanks or 2-3 ham hocks
1/2 to 3/4 cup cubed ham, if desired (recommended if using ham hocks)
1 large diced yellow onion
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped carrot
2-3 cloves minced garlic
sprig of thyme
1-2 bay leaves
  1. Soak beans in 8 cups of water overnight, or 4-6 hours. Drain the water.
  2. Bring 8 cups of water to a boil in a large pot or dutch oven.
  3. Add bay leaves, ham shanks (or ham hocks), beans, garlic, and thyme to the water and bring to a boil again. Lower heat to medium and allow to boil slowly, stirring occasionally, until beans soften. Note that, depending on how old your beans are, this process could take anywhere from 1 hour to 3 hours. I usually let the beans simmer for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
  4. When the beans are softened but still al dente, add the chopped vegetables. If using cubed ham, add to the soup. Let the soup simmer --on low or medium low-- another 45 minutes to an hour, until vegetables are soft and beans are creamy. Some will burst and thicken the soup -- this is good! If you are using ham shanks, you may want to pull them out of the soup, shred the meat, and return to the soup.
  5. Taste and add salt and pepper, if necessary. Depending on how salty your ham is, it may not be necessary. Garnish, if desired, with a bit of minced parsley or more fresh thyme leaves.

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