Being cooped up with family for a month, and I’ve learned two things. First, I now know why the women are always scowling in every photo from any time that predates families not having to eat EVERY SINGLE meal at home—–the never-ending parade of dirty dishes and a kitchen that never closes can really turn you into a grouch. They probably knew that whilst their photo was being taken, someone, probably “Not Me”, was sneaking an armload of dirty glasses into a momentarily spotlessly clean sink. Hence the the dour face and angry brows. Also, I just learned that everyone in our family eats ham. In a family of six, with one ultra-particular eater, and four who have bizarre and conflicting food no-go zones, this was a miracle. (And, maybe not totally surprising that it took almost 17 years to figure out since pork, unless it is cured into bacon or prosciutto, is my least favorite protein,)
With only a few slices of ham leftover from Easter dinner and the ham bone, I decided to make ham and bean soup for the first time. And not just prepare for the first time, but I’d never actually eaten it before. To go along with the firsts, I also used my Instant Pot to cook dried beans and make stock from the ham bone.
I pulled out the Instant Pot for the beans because I had forgotten to soak the beans overnight a couple of times, and decided to try to pressure cook them. Game changer! Including warm up time, cooking time, and venting time, it is less than an hour! I put a one pound bag of beans, half of a peeled onion (save the other half for the ham stock), a couple of peeled cloves of garlic, a couple of bay leaves and water to fill the pot up to the 8 cup mark and cooked for on high pressure for 30 minutes. I wasn’t ready to make the soup yet, so I transferred the cooked beans and some of their liquid into a big canning jar.
To make the ham stock, I first cut off any good bits of ham, and then added the bone to a big pot. I put in the other half of the peeled onion, a couple of stalks of washed celery, a peeled carrot, 2 bay leaves, and a sprinkling of pepper—-you definitely will not need to add any salt! I covered the ham bone with water and brought just to a boil, reduced heat to low, and skimmed the foam. I didn’t cover the stock and kept it between simmer and low for a couple of hours. A quick taste will not only tell you if the stock is flavorful, but also give you an idea of the saltiness. When it’s ready, drain the solids–I used a fine mesh colander in a very large bowl. If you refrigerate at this point, you will be able to skim off any fat that forms on the surface. I went straight to making my soup.
I cut four carrots and two stalks of celery lengthwise and then into half moons and a diced a white (or yellow) onion. I put a couple of splashes of olive oil in the bottom of my soup pot on medium heat and then when hot, added the vegetables and sprinkled with pepper. When the onion was translucent, I started to add the rest of the ingredients.. I carefully diced and removed all the fat I could from our leftover ham and ended up with a very generous cup to toss in. Next I added my pound of cooked beans, drained of the cooking liquid. I was leery of the saltiness of the stock and started with only half of the ham stock (I wanted the option of adding water to help dilute it.) in my soup pot. I added about a cup of water to the soup, and tasted it again after coming back to a simmer. It tasted a little thin and I came up on the idea of using peeled potatoes for more veggie power and to suck some of the saltiness out of the soup since my idea of using a water and ham stock mixture didn’t seem like it would work. I added four small russet potatoes, peeled and diced, to the soup and used most of the ham stock to cover the meat and veggies and beans by an inch (or two if you like thinner soup.) About an hour later, I tasted the soup and was pleased with the seasoning—-it was salty, but the addition of the potatoes kept it from being too salty–, but felt the soup broth lacked some depth. Luckily, I had some parmigiana reggiano rinds in the fridge and tossed a couple of rind pieces into the soup. The soup ended up simmering for two and half hours, but it was ready to go at two hours.
We had some homemade bread*, a cheese spread I purchased at the grocery store and baked, and a fantastic J Vineyards Pinot Noir (around $35 bottle) to round out the meal. I topped with a snipping of the micro greens I grew on the kitchen counter.
*While looking for the Easter baskets, we stumbled across our old bread maker! I followed the recipe for basic french bread and used the dough setting, i split the dough into two balls and placed into lightly oiled bowls and covered to let rise again for a couple of hours and then formed into two dome-shaped loafs and baked at 400 degrees for 25 minutes