Saturday, January 4, 2014

Ham and Bean Soup // (including the bone and other tasty secrets)

It's been a ghost town on this blog for some time and while I had a brief attempt at returning last summer, I find myself again with a renewed spirit. This has always been just a hobby and it remains such but I've caught myself one to many times telling a friend I'd write down a recipe or share a craft instruction and then wishing I would just blog it and not sure it with one friend but with any of my friends...and well, the whole blog-o-sphere. So here's a new one...for my girl who recently asked for this delicious recipe!
I've been super obsessed with soups - besides the obvious comfort food reasons and there are so many varieties they never cause a food slump - but mainly because I really enjoy finding ways to utilize all of our food and to eliminate waste. And it's often a way to use otherwise "wasted" parts of meals as in this recipe where we utilize not only leftover ham from a tasty holiday meal but also the bone and (...1st secret!...) the somewhat-of-a-delicacy marrow inside the bone. Don't get scared, it totally melts away into the broth and adds another layer of flavor creating a less watery texture as well, great for slurping this recipe down to the last drop! Enjoy!

Leftover ham (found in our house at Christmas and Easter dinners)
Ham bone with some meat attached (whatever's left on the bone after you carve off the majority of the larger pieces - a spiral ham will naturally peel from the bone area leaving some tender meat behind so leave all of that good flavor stuff on there)
Gelatinous fat from previously cooking ham and cooling the leftovers (see note below)
1 bag 16 mixed beans for soup
2 Tbsp EVOO
3 garlic cloves, minced (or 3 tsp pre-minced)
1 yellow onion, medium size
3 celery stalks
8 cups water
3 carrots (I use the colorful heirloom carrots but you can use any kind)
1 head of swiss chard
salt/pepper (optional)
Tapatio hot sauce (optional)

Note about fat::
I am from the health philosophy that there is healthy fat and unhealthy fat. Not all saturated fat is fact, saturated fat gives energy to our bodies. Saturated fat from animals contains essential fat soluble vitamins (K2, A, D). Saturated fat doesn't go straight from a steak to your belly or bottom, it only goes there if you don't burn off the energy it is providing your body because fat on our bodies is just energy stored for later use because you didn't use it. (I digress...). Read the science (I enjoyed this book Eat Fat, Lose Fat), and remember all things in moderation.

Note about fat (for this recipe!)::  After you cook your tasty ham for your original meal, save any drippings and the original ham intact in a stock pot or covered bowl, at least overnight. This way all the tasty fat will set in the bottom of the pot. You'll have a jelly looking fat underneath and a white layer will form around the top. Scrape off the white, thicker layer and then set aside the brown, jiggly stuff to go in your stock. This is what gives this soup amazing flavor (and I insist it won't end up on your hips if you move and groove the energy it gives you out). If you want to skip it in the recipe, you could always add some herbs or other seasoning to make up some of the difference in taste.

How To Make It::
1. Have a ham (with/without fat) set aside with the bone! Whatever you do about the fat, use the bone.
2. Prep your beans. Some soak them overnight, I choose the quick method. Rinse in a strainer. Put beans in pot with enough water to cover them. Bring to a boil for 2 minutes.  Remove from heat and let stand for 1 hour. Drain and rinse the beans again. Now (here's the ...2nd secret...) sort through the beans and find all the butter beans - the largest flat beans. The skins will be popping off of these big ones. There aren't a ton in the mix so go through and pop them out of their skins. These thick skins are hard to digest, give you icky gas and is the reason why most people claim they don't like beans. Your inevitable guests eating this soup (because it makes a lot!) will thank you for this tip.
Store covered in fridge until ready to add to soup.
3. Trim ham and dice about 3-4 cups to add to soup depending how meaty you like it or how much leftovers you have. Set aside meaty bone and skimmed off fat.
4. Dice your vegetables, wash and rough chop the greens.
5. Heat the EVOO, garlic, onion and celery until slightly tender.
6. Add water, ham bone, fat, diced ham and bring to a boil and then down to a simmer.
7. Add carrots.
8. Simmer for 3 hours, add swiss chard during the last hour.
9. Remove from heat and remove your ham bone. (...back to the 1st -and best- secret...) Check out the inside of the bone. Did all the marrow cook out? If not, get the end of a spoon and scrape those goodies out. Marrow is the life source of an animal and packed with protein and nutrients so mix it in there.
10. Add salt and pepper if you'd like to taste. I don't add any as ham is very salty. And instead of pepper, (...3rd secret...) my husband and I enjoy Tapatio hot sauce mixed in. (While plenty of people add hot sauce to their ham and bean, our secret is using Tapatio. It has the right flavor and burn.) About a large spoonful will do, adding another layer of flavor to the end of each slurp and a little extra heat for a cold night.

Serve with corn bread and enjoy!

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