My favorite time of year...
My favorite foods after a holiday are left-overs and I'm not talking turkey. Sure, any pieces of meat makes for a fine pot of turkey dumplings, a breakfast helping of turkey hash over grits or a casserole of sliced turkey, mashed potatoes, green beans with a cheesy sauce. Yep, those are some fine eating. But my favorite left-overs are the poultry carcass and the ham bone. Combined with a few scraps of meat and I'm on my way to cooking heaven.
This recipe relies on the versatile dried beans with a whole lot of help from that ham bone. Maybe you did not cook a ham for the holiday, maybe you've got one stored in the freezer or maybe you just might have to wait until after you do cook one. Heck, this soup is so good, I would cook a ham just for the sake of having the bone. Now they sell in the stores bags of mixed beans and I have bought it at times. If you are like me, you probably have numerous partial or half bags of dried beans tucked away in the pantry. Now is the time to do a little clearing out. Use whatever beans you have, whatever kind you like and whatever makes for a pretty bowl of color. I like a lot of variety in this one and I try to use as many types and colors of beans as possible.
Long ago, in southern kitchens (out back of the main house) heavy cast iron pots simmered gently throughout the day making all kinds of soups, stews, gumbos and the favorite red beans. The cooking help would put on the vessel early in the morning and go about the business of cleaning, washing clothes and shopping the markets. Coming back to it every so often to meddle a bit, add a tad of this and that, secrets that only a good Creole cook knew, and tend to the fire all while the making of a fine meal was slowing melding together. In other words, don't start this on a day when you need a quick fix. It takes time to develop character or in this case, a good part of the day. Enjoy!
Serves 8 to 10
1 1/2 pounds (24 oz) mixed dried beans such as navy, northern, white kidney, large lima, baby lima, pinto, black eyed, cranberry, pink, small red, green spit pea, yellow split pea, lentil or black - any combination will be good, the more the better
3 quarts water
2 tablespoons Creole Seasoning (with salt)
1 left-over ham bone
1 to 1 1/2 cups chopped ham
2 quarts (8 cups) chicken broth
2 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
1 large onion, diced
1 large potato, peeled and diced
2 large carrots, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley or freeze-dried
2 teaspoons Creole Seasoning
Pinch of thyme
|cooked ham bone|
2 -14.5 ounce cans petite diced tomatoes
Salt and pepper to taste
Rinse beans in a deep bowl removing any unwanted and rinse several times. Place in a slow cooker with the water, vinegar and Creole mix. Set cooker on warm heat overnight or on low heat for several hours until hydrated. You can also cook stove-top for a few hours if you are home stirring every so often. Drain the beans in a colander.
Add the ham bone and the next 11 ingredients to a large stockpot and bring to a low boil, reduce to simmer (not boiling) on lowest heat for a couple of hours. In a slow cooker, cook on high for 4 hours, or 8 hours on low if you are working that day.
Remove bone if desired and cut any meat from the bone adding the ham back to the pot. Skim off any grease from the top of the broth. Add the beans, bring to just under a boil and then simmer on low until beans are done and mixture has thickened just a bit, about an hour. Stir in the corn and tomatoes, season with salt and pepper to taste and cook on lowest heat another hour or so. If continuing using the slow cooker, add ingredients and cook on high heat for 2 hours or until beans are nice and soft.
Serve with hot cornbread, corn muffins or crusty French bread.
Note: If the beans are still a bit firm when adding to the pot, hold off on adding the tomatoes until the beans have softened up a bit. Tomatoes will work against the bean's ability in absorption.