I first came across the recipe for this yummy soup a couple of summers ago when a neighbor gifted me with a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) basket on a weekend when she was out of town. It was overflowing with a dozen different vegetables in generous amounts, and I wanted to use them up before they began to age. The original recipe is from Cook This Now: 120 Easy and Delectable Dishes You Can’t Wait to Make.
The CSA basket contained a small red cabbage, and I used it in place of the green cabbage the recipe calls for. The red cabbage turned the soup an…um…interesting color, but it tasted just fine.
Since I live alone I never purchase a big ham on a bone, but I discovered that the local HoneyBaked Ham store sells ham bones from their hams with lots of meat still on them at a really great price, sometimes BOGO. You could also use ham shanks or any other cut of ham that has some bone and meat. Having a butcher cut the ham bone into two or three pieces ensures that the bone fits your soup pot and that the marrow flavors the soup.
Makes 6 – 8 servings
1 cup dried pinto beans (you can use any beans you like, or a variety of beans)
4 strips bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3 large carrots, peeled and diced
2 celery stalks, trimmed and diced
1 large onion, peeled and diced
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 ham bone (about 1-1/4 lbs.), cut into half or thirds (or use a meaty ham shank or ham hocks)
1 bay leaf
8 cups water
2 1/2 teaspoons salt, plus additional to taste
1/2 head green cabbage, shredded (about 8 cups)
1 bunch kale, stems removed, leaves chopped into bite-sized pieces (collards or chard work too)
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Hot sauce or cider vinegar, for serving
1. Soak the beans in cold water overnight, or use the “quick soak” method: In a large pot, bring the beans and plenty of cold water to a boil. Turn off the heat, cover the pot, and let stand for 1 hour. Drain the beans. You can also substitute canned beans; you will need about 2 cans (3 cups). Rinse them well and add them when you add the cabbage.
2. Heat a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook until crisp, 5 to 7 minutes; remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel-lined plate and save for garnishing the soup. Add the carrots, celery, and onion to the bacon fat in the pan. Cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute.
3. Drop the ham bone and bay leaf into the pot, and add 8 cups water and 2 1/2 teaspoons salt. Bring mixture to a boil over high heat; add beans, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer for 30 minutes. Stir in the shredded cabbage and simmer 30 minutes. Stir in the kale and simmer until the kale is soft, but still vibrantly green, about 15 minutes.
4. Remove the meat and fatty bits from the ham bone, chop them up, and stir them back into the soup. Season with pepper, a dash of hot sauce or vinegar, and more salt, if needed. Crumble the reserved bacon on top.
The flavor is even better the second day. I often freeze it in serving size containers.