I had a craving for a hearty soup and sourced this lovely recipe from Ree Drummond at The Pioneer Woman. You have to plan ahead to soak the beans, but this makes a big pot (and also freezes beautifully). I had a bit of chopped ham as well as some ‘ham juice’ (water I save that the ham steamed in), in the freezer so I replaced some of the water with it – enjoy!
1 lb. Great Northern white beans, picked through, covered with water by a couple of inches and soaked overnight
4 c. good chicken broth AND 4 c. of water (or half water and half ‘ham juice’)
1 lb. thick-cut bacon, diced – Ree recommends 1-inch, but we prefer smaller pieces
1 large onion, diced
2+ large carrots AND 2+ celery stalks, all diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 can (156 mL) tomato paste
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper – to taste
chopped fresh parsley – for garnish and to taste
3 or 4 whole Roma tomatoes, chopped – for garnish
Drain the beans and place them in a large pot with the chicken broth and water. Bring this to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.
While the beans are simmering, cook the bacon in a separate large skillet until just crisp. Add 2/3’s to the bean pot and drain the rest on a paper towel to reserve for garnish. Remove most of the bacon grease from the skillet and add in the onion, carrots and celery. Sprinkle with a bit of salt and a good grinding of pepper and cook for a few minutes until the vegetables have softened a bit. Stir in the garlic and tomato paste and cook for another couple of minutes, then scrape this vegetable mix into the simmering bean pot. Add in the bay leaves, cover and cook on low until the beans are tender – this will take about an hour and a half. Check on the soup and give it a stir each half hour and add more broth if you think it needs it.
When you’re ready to serve, taste for seasoning, stir in some parsley and the tomatoes, dish it up into big bowls and garnish with the reserved bacon and some extra parsley as you wish!