Ham and Bean Soup

Ham, like turkey, lends itself to a cornucopia of leftover dishes. Scalloped potatoes and ham is a popular entree. So is ham salad. And if you’re a fan of Dr. Seuss, there’s green eggs and ham. But probably the most popular use of leftover ham is in soup.

When I was growing up, ham and bean soup was a regular guest at our dinner table. My dad took pride in his version. We could always count on having the soup on the Monday following a Sunday ham dinner.

I’ve never been quite able to duplicate my dad’s ham and bean soup, despite numerous attempts. Of course, Dad’s soup never contained canned beans. He always started with fresh, dry beans that my mom would bring home from her job at Minnesota Bean and Pea Co in Crookston. They usually were Great Northerns, although a few soups undoubtedly were made with pintos.

About the closest thing I’ve had to dad’s soup over the years was the one served this past weekend to three of us who were grinding elk meat into burger at a farm just outside of Devils Lake.

During a break in the action, Annette Buchmeier, wife of my hunting buddy, Dave Buchmeier, treated us to a meal that consisted of ham and bean soup, hamburgers with fried onions and homemade apple pie. The meal reminded me of ones I had as a kid while visiting relatives on the farm near Euclid, Minn. Everything was homemade and all very delicious.

Annette’s meal was not to be outdone. Her soup contained home-grown pinto beans that were raised by her brother as well as the last of her garden’s cabbage, and the pie featured apples grown right in her backyard. Plus, the burger was freshly ground.

If this has put you in the mood for ham and bean soup, here’s a recipe you might like to try.

Ham and Bean Soup
1 meaty ham bone from a leftover ham
16 cups water
5 sprigs parsley
1 medium onion, quartered
2 carrots, peeled, cut into chunks
2 ribs celery, with leaves, cut into chunks
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 large onion, peeled, chopped
2 large carrots, peeled, sliced into 1/4-inch-thick pieces
3 ribs celery, sliced
Stock from above
1½ to 2 cups leftover diced ham plus ham picked from bone
1 32-ounce jar Great Northern beans (or 3 cups dried beans cooked)
Salt and pepper to taste
½ cup chopped parsley, optional
To make the stock: In a large stock pot place ham bone, water, parsley, onion, carrots and celery. Place over medium heat until it just begins to bubble. Cover slightly, reduce heat to simmer and simmer for 1½ to 2 hours. Add more water if needed.
Remove the bone and set it aside. Strain the stock back into the pot. Or strain into a bowl, cool and refrigerate overnight. Pick off any meat from the bone, discard fat and chop the meat.
To make the soup: In a large soup pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots and celery. Saute about 5 minutes or until the onions are softened. Add the stock, chopped ham and beans; heat over medium heat. Simmer about 45 minutes or until carrots are softened. Just before serving, season with salt and pepper and stir in the parsley.
Yield: 12 cups.
Approximate nutritional analysis per 1 cup: 185 calories, 19 percent of calories from fat, 4 grams fat (1 gram saturated), 27 grams carbohydrates, 11 grams protein, 515 milligrams sodium, 10 milligrams cholesterol, 6 grams fiber.