HEARTY HAM AND BEAN SOUP

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I found this giant hammered copper ladle at an estate sale.  It’s 17 inches long, and the bowl holds a whopping 24 ounces.  I can’t wait to buy a cauldron so I can use it.

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Have you heard the joke about the missing ladle?  A college student invites his mother over to eat dinner with him and his new roommate. When his mother arrives, she can’t help but notice how beautiful his new female roommate is.  The son assures her that they’re just roommates and their relationship is strictly platonic.  The mother enjoys a nice dinner, and later goes home.  Two weeks later, the girl tells her roommate that ever since his mother visited, she can’t find her silver gravy ladle.  So the son writes his mother a letter saying, “Mom, I’m not saying that you ‘did’ take the silver gravy ladle, and I’m not saying that you ‘did not’ take the silver gravy ladle, but the fact remains that it has been missing since you came over for dinner.”  The mother wrote back saying, “Son, I’m not saying that you ‘do’ sleep with your roommate, and I’m not saying that you ‘do not’ sleep with your roommate, but the fact remains that if she was sleeping in her own bed, she would have found the ladle by now.”

According to information on Snopes, versions of this joke have been around since 1840.  Variations on who is sleeping together include a housekeeper and an employer/pastor/Bill Clinton.  You, of course, can substitute whoever you want when you tell the joke.  🙂

The ladle, of course, inspires me to make soup.  Even though the temperatures are rising here, we still enjoy soup for an occasional meal.  If, by chance, you have a leftover ham bone, you have the beginnings of a great, hearty soup.  The soup is not particularly pretty, although you could put some lipstick on it with chopped herbs. Rather, its beauty lies beneath the surface in its smoky flavor and chewy bits of ham, and the fact that a hearty pot of bean soup is one of the highest and best uses of a ham bone.  The soup reminds me of the little camellia bush in my backyard.  It was diseased, and its curled yellowing leaves made it anything but pretty.  We were going to rip it out, but instead treated the infestation and left it to see what would happen.  Just when I was ready to give up on it, I noticed something peeking out from the leaves, and discovered one perfect white camellia flower.  Despite the fact that it was not, at this time, a beautiful glossy green bush, it nevertheless delighted me with what was hiding beneath the surface.

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For this batch, I used Jacob’s Cattle Beans, also known as Trout or Dalmatian beans, which is an heirloom bean originally from Germany.  According to Slow Food, “legend has it that it was a gift from Maine’s Passamaquoddy Indians to Joseph Clark, the first white child born in Lubec, Maine.”  These are fat, kidney-shaped, white and maroon splashed beans that are great in soup and slow-cooker dishes because they hold their shape, even when cooked for hours, resulting in a meaty, not mushy, bean.

HAM AND BEAN SOUP
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Recipe type: Soup
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 lb. dried beans
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 large meaty ham bone
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 dried cayenne chiles
  • 3 large carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
Instructions
  1. Rinse beans in a colander. Place beans in a large stockpot and add enough water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to boiling. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Cover and let stand 1 hour. (Or, skip boiling water and soak beans overnight in a covered pan.) Drain and rinse beans.
  2. In the same pan combine beans, celery, onion, ham bone, garlic, bay leaves, chicken broth, water, thyme, and chiles. Bring to boiling. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 1-3/4 hours. Remove ham bone and set aside to cool. Stir in carrots. Return to boiling. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, about 15 minutes or until carrots are tender.
  3. Meanwhile, cut meat off bone and coarsely chop. Discard bone. Stir meat into soup, along with parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve hot.

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