EVERY YEAR, I cook a ham at some point between Christmas and New Year’s, and then typically use the ham bone for a New Year’s Bean Soup. I fill most of a big soup kettle, and freeze the resulting soup for lunches for the coming cold months.
It’s typically a fly-by-night affair on ingredients, but this year I kept track when I made it yesterday, and my son Shaun chose to finish his bean soup over his cheeseburger last night… so I know this one turned out good.
Typically, I use all dried beans, but this year I only had one “multi-bean” bag, so I tossed in a can of chili beans to make up for the shortfall. I also usually use Ro-Tel diced tomatoes and chilis instead of tomato sauce… but the pantry had sauce and not Ro-Tel… and hey, cooking’s all about using whatcha got! Here’s how you can make this year’s edition of:
Everson Umpteen Bean Soup
Put the beans in your soup pot to soak. This allows them to expand before cooking. Throw away the “bean soup powder” mix that probably came with your dried multi-bean bag. You’ve got all the flavor you need coming from the peppers and ham.
If I’m really organized, I’ll soak the beans overnight, but you can get away with a couple hours in warm water. (Some people boil them and let sit for an hour to speed the process).
Drain and rinse. Return the beans to the pot and add water — I make sure the water level is a couple inches above the top of the beans. Remember it’s easier to add water than to remove it… but you will be steaming water out all day.
Put the heat on low to start simmering the beans.
Add the cans of chili beans and tomato sauce.
Chop and sauté the peppers, onions and garlic until the onions are turning golden in the butter. Add to the pot.
If you are actually using fresh New Mexican chilis, you’ll need to de-skin them because while New Mexican grown pepper “meat” has a taste like no other, Hatch chili skins are tough. Mine had been frozen (I brought a bag of fresh ones back from Santa Fe in my suitcase last year), so I put them in a frying pan with a little water until they were hot and soft, and then scraped out the inner green chili goodness with a knife. I then added all that mushy green to the pot.
Chop the baby carrots up, add to the pot.
Chop up the cilantro and add to the pot.
Sprinkle with chili powder.
Cook all on low to low-medium heat for about 4 hours, stirring every 15-20 minutes. You want to keep the heat low enough so you don’t scorch the bottom or you’ll ruin the whole batch. It helps to have a good soup pot with a heavy bottom vs. the cheap thin ones they sell at some grocery stores. I used a new heavy pot this year, and the cooking process was soooo much nicer. Nothing scorched or stuck to the bottom.
About an hour before the end of the cooking cycle, I will usually skim off some of the fat and water that is sitting on top after a few minutes of non-stirring. Then I remove the ham bone, and chop off any clinging meat. If your ham bone didn’t have quite enough ham left on it, you can also dice up some more ham from your leftovers and toss that in.
I tend to like my soup spicier than everyone else, so after removing the ham bone and stirring, I will siphon some of the soup into another pot. Once I have two pots going, I’ll chop up a jalapeno or two, plus a serrano and habanero pepper, and add those to the batch that I’m going to be eating. Whatever you do, if you have people sensitive to spicy, do NOT cross the stirring spoons over that next final hour of simmering!
Serve with grated quesadilla cheese or colby jack, and a dollop of sour cream!
Makes… a LOT.