Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Crock Pot Ham & Bean Soup

This soup is the perfect way to use up your left over Easter ham. It couldn't be easier either. Of course you can do this in a big pot in your stove, but that would require attention. I don't know about you, but I don't want to have to watch a big pot of soup for hours on end. That's just me though. Some people like to stir it. I guess it's therapeutic. I only do that with homemade sugu (spaghetti sauce). There is just something about tending to that sauce all that day that makes me feel like an 80 year old Italian lady.

Okay, back to soup. This soup is really super easy and it's so so good. It's also super filling and comforting all at the same time. All you need is ham hock, beans, garlic, onion, carrot and chopped ham (this is optional, but I say it's a must for that meaty bite that makes the soup that much better). The first and most important step of this soup is soaking the beans. Soaking the beans helps speed up the cooking time, but it also helps keep all the vitamins and nutrients where they should be - in the bean. Not to mention, the soaking also helps break down all the sugars that cause the unfortunate side effect of beans, gas. Sorry, I had to mention it. We all know it happens. 

The night before you want to put this soup in the crock pot, soak the beans in a big bowl with enough water to cover. Add a few extra inches of water just to be safe. When you wake up in the morning, you'll be surprised how much water those beans absorb. They will be plump and ready for cooking. Once they are ready, drain and pour the beans into your crock pot. Add in the ham hock, chopped onions, carrot and garlic. Cover with water - enough to cover the beans. You don't want to put too much water because during the cooking process because the condensation from the lid will fall into the beans and create more liquid. About half way through the cooking process, give the beans an stir and add in your chopped meat. Cook for about another 4 or 5 hours until the beans are tender and the mixture is looking soupy. I know you might not know what I mean by soupy, but trust me. You will know when you see it. About 8-9 hours in the crockpot and you should have the perfect soupy consistency. This soup is perfect and filling on it's own, but even better with a skinny cheesy cornbread muffin. Don't worry, I'll eventually show you how to make those too.

since I didn't have ham for Easter, I was used ham hocks from the grocery store and a big piece of thickly sliced ham (from the deli counter).

soaking beans

drained beans and ham bones

diced up ham added in about half way through

also add a big dash of pepper!
I totally forgot to take a picture of the finished soup. Just close your eyes and imagine bean soupy goodness.

Crock Pot Ham & Bean Soup 

3 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 bag of bean soup mix, beans soaked over night (adding in the ham flavor packet, optional)
ham hock 
2 cups diced ham
salt and pepper (to taste)

Soak beans over night (at least 8 hours, more if possible) in a large bowl with at least three inches of water covering the beans. After beans have soaked, drain and place into crock pot along with the ham hock, diced carrots, onion and garlic. Cover with water just to the top of the beans. Cook for 4 hours on low. Add in the diced ham and a pinch of pepper after four hours and cook for an additional 4-5 hours or until beans are tender. 

When looking for the beans, most of the packages will have a ham seasoning packet. I don't add this because it contains MSG, but with all the other ham, who needs the artificial seasonings! Even if you don't have a ham hock or can't find them in the store, plenty of diced ham will do the trick to give this soup the meatiness you want.

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