Bean soup is comfort food, especially on a chilly fall or winter day. This soup is prepared and cooked with simple seasonings and a ham bone or diced ham. I add some chopped celery and carrots, but it is very good with just onions as well.
Beans are sometimes tough after many hours of cooking. Salt and acidic ingredients can contribute to this problem, so I wait until the beans are tender before salting. Some professionals (and food scientists) disagree that salt is the culprit, however, and suggest that brining the beans in salt water overnight cuts down on the cooking time and results in tender beans. See the tips and variations for more about brining.
- 1 meaty ham bone
- 2 cups navy beans or mixed beans, washed, sorted, and soaked overnight
- 8 cups water
- 1 to 1 1/2 cups chopped onion
- 1 clove garlic, minced (or 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder)
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon honey or brown sugar, or to taste
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Put the beans in a colander and rinse thoroughly. Pick over and discard any malformed or damaged beans and look for small stones.
Combine beans, ham bone, water, chopped onion, garlic or garlic powder, and the bay leaf in slow cooker.
Cover and cook on HIGH for 1 hour. Turn to LOW and cook 6 to 8 hours longer, or until beans are tender.
Season with lemon juice, honey or brown sugar, salt, and pepper, to taste.
Remove ham bone; chop meat and return to crockpot.
Remove bay leaf before serving.
Serves 6 to 8.
Tips and Variations
- Add 1/2 cup of diced celery and 1/2 cup of diced carrots to the pot along with the onions.
- Instead of a ham bone, use two meaty ham hocks or 2 cups of diced leftover ham.
- To brine the beans overnight, dissolve 5 teaspoons of kosher salt in 8 cups of water. Add the dried beans and let them stand overnight. Rinse the beans in a colander the next day, add them to the slow cooker and cover with 8 cups of fresh water. You may add 1/2 teaspoon of salt to the water, or add salt to taste after cooking. Proceed with the recipe. See this article on thekitchn for the rationale behind brining beans.
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