Soak, Cook, Soup!

I’m a big believer in a stocked pantry – which to me, includes the deep freezer. I like to be equally prepared for snowstorms, impromptu parties and an immediate desire to cook at all times. Beans are definitely a pantry necessity and I keep both the dried and canned varieties on hand. They are nutritional powerhouses and really inexpensive. Growing your own is even better – I’ve grown the orca variety in the past and it’s so fun to open the dried pods to reveal beans that are ready to be stored for months.

I did a little hard hitting bean research ahead of my time on Minnesota Live today – and it turns out, dried beans really are the better deal. A 16 oz bag of organic dried black beans will yield 6 cups when cooked – for just $2.79. A single can of organic black beans is less than 2 cups worth – and it’s costs $2.49.

You can find all sorts of debate on the world wide web about soaking versus not soaking your beans – some say it doesn’t matter, others say it does. I go for the soak – somewhat because I like the science experiment of seeing them grow overnight. I simply put the beans in a large bowl and then add lots of filtered water (at least double the amount of beans) as the beans will absorb the water and expand overnight. When morning hits, I’m ready to make this soup. My Ham & Bean Soup isn’t a quick cook – it needs a good 8 hours in the slow cooker or three on the stove. But it makes a big batch so there’s plenty to gift or freeze. And feel free to switch out the bean varieties based on what you have and like. Here’s the recipe and you can watch the fun with beans (including a “beans, beans the musical fruit” joke) on Minnesota Live below!

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Ham & Bean Soup

Gather this:

1 tbsp bacon fat

3 carrots, chopped

2 stalks of celery, chopped

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

3 cloves of garlic, minced

2/3 cup dried black beans

2/3 cup dried white beans

2/3 cup dried kidney beans

1 tbsp fresh thyme

1 smoked ham hock

6 cups chopped ham

1 quart chicken stock

1 bay leaf

salt & pepper

fresh parsley for serving

Do this:

The night before you want to make the soup, put all the beans in a large bowl and cover with filtered water. Add more water so there’s about the amount of water to beans. In the morning, drain and rinse the soaked beans. In a stockpot or large dutch oven, heat the bacon fat over medium heat. Add the carrot, onion, celery, garlic and thyme and season with salt and pepper. Sauté for about 5 minutes. If using a slow cooker, transfer mixture to the slow cooker insert at this time. Add the soaked beans, the ham hock and the chopped ham. Pour chicken stock in the pot or slow cooker. Add another quart of filtered water. Toss in the bay leaf and set slow cooker to low for about 8 hours or simmer on the stove for 2-3 hours, until the beans are tender. Check seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed. Remove the bay leaf and brighten up each bowl with a sprinkle of fresh parsley.

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