It is comfort food season here in Michigan. The trees have lost their brilliant, autumn plumage and now stand as gray skeletons in yards and wood lots. Cold wind has been eating through light jackets and sweatshirts, prompting an outbreak of winter coats among people who have to venture outside. At times it has been difficult to fall asleep because the wind has continued into the night, bumping and banging on the house’s siding and shutters like a Halloween monster that has overstayed its welcome. This is the time of year when cold salads and iced tea lose their appeal. It’s time for warm, hearty food and steaming hot coffee or tea. Although, I have to admit I drink hot coffee all year long. My path through the morning is long and bumpy if I don’t get my dose of dark and steamy caffeine a few minutes after stumbling out of bed.
So, now I am craving things like thick stews and bubbling casseroles, but I don’t have the time to make anything time consuming or fussy. Not only is the holiday season barreling closer I have a big, exciting, slightly-terrifying-to-my-flash-fiction-writer-side writing project. I have to write down in my planner, every day, what time I need to pick up my kids from their after-school activities because I will forget. In fact, I was half an hour late picking up my daughter earlier this week because my brain didn’t adjust to her appointment being half an hour earlier than usual. This is a time when I take a break from my writing tasks and realize it’s the middle of the afternoon and I have no idea what I’m going to make for dinner, but I need to figure that out quickly because I need to leave in 15 minutes to pick up the kids from school and that is when I will also have to stop at the grocery store.
Thank goodness for Pinterest. About a month or so ago I pinned a recipe for beans and ham made in the crockpot. Now this recipe takes some planning, you need to cook it all day, but it doesn’t get much easier. I grew up eating my mom’s homemade bean soup and I have always loved it. My husband, on the other hand, isn’t a fan of beans unless they are in spicy chili. The recipe I pinned was just dried beans, ham hocks and water. Much to my surprise, my husband actually liked the resulting thick soup. Since I love to tinker with recipes, the next time I made it I added in some of the ingredients my mom used in her soup and the result is the recipe below. I also have ideas for quite a few variations on this that I will be trying over the winter.
A few notes, you don’t have to soak the beans overnight before beginning this recipe. I was skeptical about that, but was pleasantly surprised at the tender beans and thick broth. I highly suggest using smoked ham shanks if you can get them. I used a combo of shanks and hocks the first time and could barely get any meat at all off of the hocks, but there was more than enough on the shanks to make a nicely meaty soup. By the way, I topped my soup off with liberal drizzles of sriracha hot sauce and it was an excellent way to add a bit of spicy heat.
What are some of your favorite ingredients to add to bean soup?
- 1 lb. dried northern (white) beans
- 2 smoked ham shanks or meaty ham hocks - 1½ to 2 lbs. total
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 1 medium carrot, diced
- 2 dried bay leaves
- 6 cups water
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Sort through the beans and pick out any debris. Place in a strainer and rinse with water to remove any dust or dirt. Add all of the ingredients to a slow cooker. Cook on low for about 8 hours, or until the beans are tender. Remove the meat from the shanks, shred and add back into the beans.
This post is part of the Weekend Cooking meme at Beth Fish Reads.