Sunday, January 3, 2021

Ham and Pinto Bean Soup ~ And Happy New Year!

The ham bone from our cozy, private Christmas dinner – a meal that could have fed maybe ten or so – became the base for this rich and hearty ham and bean soup that filled the house with such a tantalizing aroma as it simmered on the stove all day.

Ham and bean soup is the biggest reason we have a ham at Christmastime. And although it's an annual tradition, I love to make ham and bean soup, any soup, any time of year. 

I confess: I'm a  soup addict.

Actually my favorite ham and bean soup is Senate Bean Soup  Except for the kind of beans, the basic recipes are very similar.

But I had a bit of an overstock of pinto beans because a friend asked me to take several bags off her hands. Her father-in-law, a bean lover, found a deal too good to pass up and bought a whole case. “Please,” she begged. “Take some.”

What was I going to do with all those beans? I made baked beans over the summer a couple times, but even after the pandemic reorganizing of my pantry, I still had three bags to use.

I really didn't know the difference among all the variety of beans. I’m more familiar with the northern beans, or cannellini beans. I know many folks also use navy beans in ham and bean soup. Navy beans are similar to northerns in their flavors; they’re just smaller and slightly plumper.

Turns out that the biggest difference between northerns and pintos is color: The northerns are white and the pinto bean is a pinkish color that turns brown when cooked. 

Great Northern Beans are white. . . . 

 . . .and pinto beans are a reddish pink

The second biggest difference is that the hearty pinto bean takes longer to cook than the more delicate northern. But as long as the house smelled good and the filling soup was a perfect warmer upper on an early January day, that was all right with me.

Predictably, when I told Mr. Rosemary that I was using a slightly different recipe than I usually do for the soup, he rolled his eyes and wanted to know why I was changing from a known good thing. 

When I explained that I had this overload of pinto beans clogging up the pantry, he, as big a fan of non-waste as I am, was pacified. And when he ate the soup, two bowls worth, he was more than satisfied.

I did two different things from the original recipe. I added about ¼ cup of instant mashed potatoes to the soup towards the end of cooking. I like the soup thickened up a little, not to the pudding stage, but just a little thicker. Suit your own tastes for texture.

When I tasted the soup as it simmered, I found it a little bland, so I added a tablespoon a chili powder, not a lot for the size of the pot, but enough to spice up the soup a tad.

I also didn’t do one thing the original recipe called for: I didn’t add a Hungarian noodle-like dumpling called csipetke.  Csipetke is made from a dough of egg, flour and oil that is pinched into little pieces then dropped into the soup about a half-hour before it’s ready to be served.

Mr. Rosemary also doesn't like dumplings -- doesn't matter the kind, size or shape, so I left the csipetke out. But I didn't say a word when he asked for a piece of bread to put in his soup bowl before ladling the soup on top. Wasn't that pretty much a dumpling?!?

Ham and Pinto Bean Soup
Makes about 4 quarts
Adapted from Taste of Home

1 pound dried pinto beans
6 large carrots, sliced 1/2 inch thick
1 large onion, chopped
6 celery ribs, sliced
1 large garlic clove
3-1/2 to 4 pounds smoked ham hocks
(or one meaty ham bone)
2 teaspoons paprika
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/4 cup instant mashed potatoes

Wash and sort beans. Soak in cold water overnight; drain. In a large 8-qt. soup kettle, combine the beans, carrots, onions, celery, garlic, ham bone, paprika and chili powder. Add enough water to cover ingredients by 2 inches.  Simmer, partly covered, for 2 to 4 hours or until the beans are tender, adding more water as needed. Add the instant potato to thicken, if you want. When beans are tender; remove the bone, remove the meat from the bone and add to the soup.

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