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~A Big Batch of Bean Soup -- Eat Some Freeze Some~

IMG_8591In my kitchen, cold weather is soup and stew weather, and, once the frost is on the pumpkin I like to make my soups and stews in slow-simmered big batches.  After we've enjoyed one hearty warm-us-up meal, I freeze the rest in two-quart containers, so we can slurp soups and stews several more times until Spring comes.  Chicken vegetable soup, beef stew, and, ham and bean soup are my on my family's short-list of big-batch favorites. For the most part, when making soup or stew, "chicken is chicken" and "beef is beef", meaning:  they're almost self-explanatory. That said, when making a soup or stew that requires ham, I always choose to use the boney, more-flavorful smoked shanks or hocks over a meatier chunk or a few slices of smoked ham.

IMG_6608Time to define & discuss smoked ham shanks & ham hocks.

6a0120a8551282970b0263e973fbeb200bA bit about ham shanks and ham hocks:  Bony cuts of fatty meat taken from the legs and near the feet of the pig, with the shanks being the meatier of the two.

- Ham Shank

- Ham Hock

The shank refers to a fairly meaty part just below the pork shoulder (if it is the front of the hog) or the hip (if it's from the back of the hog).  The hock refers to a much bonier cut taken from just above the feet.  Both have a thick, tough skin (which is left on) and contain a lot of tendons, ligaments and fat.  They contain a lot of collagen too, which adds silkiness to whatever they are cooked in.  All of this means they require a long, slow, moist-heat method of cooking, like stewing or braising, to make them edible.  Unlike ham, neither contain enough meat to be the focal point of dinner. Instead, after cooking, the skin is discarded, the meat is removed from the bone, chopped or shredded, then added to dishes like hearty soups and thick stews.

To make a big batch of old-fashioned bean soup:

IMG_66156  quarts cold water

3  40-ounce cans great northern beans, undrained

3  15 1/2-ounce cans cannelloni beans, undrained

4  smoked ham shanks (about 1-1 1/4 pounds each)

6  cups peeled and diced carrots

5  cups diced celery 

5  cups diced onion 

8  cups peeled and diced gold potatoes

3  tablespoons dried parsley flakes

6  whole bay leaves

1  tablespoon garlic powder

5  tablespoons sea salt

1  tablespoon coarse-grind black pepper

IMG_6619 IMG_6619 IMG_6619 IMG_6619 IMG_6619 IMG_6619 IMG_6619 IMG_6619 IMG_6619~Step 1.  Place 6 quarts cold water in a very large, 20-24-quart, stockpot. Add the undrained beans and ham shanks.  Prep and add the carrots, celery, onions and potatoes to the pot as you work.  Add all of the seasonings:  parsley flakes, bay leaves, garlic powder, sea salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil over high heat. Adjust heat to a gentle, steady simmer, and continue to cook, uncovered, for 2-2 1/2 hours, stopping to give the soup a stir about every 15 minutes. Turn the heat off, cover the pot, and allow soup to steep for 2-2 1/2 hours.

IMG_6654 IMG_6654 IMG_6654 IMG_6654 IMG_6654 IMG_6654 IMG_6678 IMG_6678~Step 2.  Using a large slotted spoon, remove the shanks from the pot and place them in a 13" x 9" x 2" casserole.  Remove and discard the skin from the shanks, then, remove meat from the bone -- both are easy to do.  Using two forks, shred the meat into small pieces.  Return the meat to the stockpot.  Over medium heat, return the bean soup to a simmer and reheat.  Remove from heat and serve some immediately, and/or portion into freezer-safe food storage containers.

Simple, Straightforward & Scrumptious Bean Soup:

IMG_8596A Big Batch of Bean Soup -- Eat Some, Freeze Some:  Recipe yields 18 quarts.

Special Equipment List: cutting board; chef's knife; 20-24 quart stockpot, preferably stainless steel; 1-quart measuring container; long-handled slotted spatula; 13" x 9" x 2" casserole; two forks vegetable peeler; long-handled slotted spoon; soup ladle 

IMG_8585Cook's Note: My Big Batch Bean Soup recipe in a spin-off of American's most famous bean soup recipe.  Bean soup is on the menu in all of the Senate's restaurant dining rooms every day and has been for over a hundred years, possibly longer -- it's an official mandate.  To learn more about the history, read my post: ~ State of the Union: Famous US Senate Bean Soup ~.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)


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