Just about everyone has tasted one version or another of the classic white bean soup with ham. Others may prefer more of a spicy Creole version that uses tomatoes and closely resembles a gumbo. Still others may have enjoyed a south-of-the-border version using lots of onions and peppers, and served with fresh warm tortillas. Well, THIS version is none of those. Or maybe it's a part of each of those combined. Either way, it is a unique grouping of flavors and textures that I think many will enjoy as a break from traditional bean soups or stews. One side note is that this soup begins with a broth made fresh from a previously discarded ham bone...hopefully with a little meat and fat still clinging. Here we go!
1 ham bone
3 T. finely chopped fat from the boiled ham bone
1 cup diced sweet yellow onion
4 stalks celery, chopped
3 large carrots, diced
1 pound dried white northern beans, soaked and cooked
1/4 pound dried black beans, soaked and cooked
4 medium sized red potatoes, diced
1 large can diced tomatoes, or use whole tomatoes and cut them up yourself.
1 t. salt
1 t. black pepper
1 T. dried basil
2 T. minced garlic
1 t. dried dill weed
Boil the ham bone in 2 quarts of water for two hours. Meanwhile...
Speedsoak the dried beans by covering them with 2 quarts of water, bring to a boil, and simmer for one hour. Drain and rinse the beans, then cover them with 2 fresh quarts of water and boil until they are tender...should be about 30 minutes. **You may be wondering why it is worth it to begin with dried beans rather than using a canned variety. Mainly, the issue is one of nutrition. While one cup of canned navy beans and one cup of cooked dried navy beans are almost identical nutritionally as far as protein, carbohydrates, and fiber count, that cup of canned beans also contains 1,174mg of sodium compared to essentially zero sodium in dried beans. The average adult only requires between 180 and 500mg of sodium per day TOTAL. While the beans are cooking...
Dice the onion, celery, carrots, and ham fat/meat scrap. Saute' with the garlic until vegetables are just barely soft. Set aside.
No need to remove the bone from the broth…leaving it in will just enhance the flavor of the soup. Add the sautee'd vegetables, cooked beans, tomatoes, and potatoes. Add seasonings and cover with a lid. Simmer for thirty minutes before adjusting seasonings and checking potatoes for doneness.
The soup will thicken as the potatoes cook, so don't worry about it seeming "brothy"...the potatoes will thicken the broth and the beans will absorb broth, evening out the soup nicely.
Serve with fresh crusty bread or a nice skillet-baked cornbread. This soup freezes very well, so extras can be saved for another day.