Monday, November 1, 2010

Ham and Bean Soup - Crockpot or Home Canned

This is an easy and delicious food storage item. I really love ham and bean soup and for years have made it in my Crockpot every fall and into the spring. I used to make as big a batch as my Crockpot would hold and if there was any left, I’d put it in jars and freeze it. One day I realized I should have it on my pantry shelves at all times.

My grandma always used a ham bone to make this soup and simmered it on the stove for hours to get all the flavor she could. I don’t always have a ham bone but whenever hams are on sale I pick one up (doesn’t really matter what kind) and if it has a ham bone I use it, if not I just add diced or shredded cooked ham. (Now the truth comes out about what happens to all that leftover ham!) Another thing I always do is add ham juice.

Let me tell you a little about ham juice. When I was growing up and my mom cooked a ham, she would ALWAYS save the juice from the cooking process. I love eggs fried in this juice (still do) and if there is a lot of juice leftover I freeze it to use in fried eggs and to use in this soup. I always cringe when I’m helping at a funeral or a dinner and see someone pour the ham juice down the drain. What a waste. So, next time you cook a ham, be sure to save the juice. And just in case you are wondering if it has to be pure ham juice, I always add some pineapple juice and a little brown sugar to my hams when I cook them and this juice is awesome to use in any way, shape or form. Yum!

Everyone has their own version of this soup and what they add to it. Some of my family would stir in vinegar when we’d eat it. Some would add ketchup. Some added a little brown sugar, ketchup and vinegar. I finally decided that I could make it in any way and we still liked it. I’m including the basic recipe I used for the Crockpot version as well as the canned version.

The Crockpot recipe makes a pretty large batch of soup, you can cut the recipe in half or freeze leftovers if you wish.

Crockpot Ham And Bean Soup
3 c. white beans (small navy beans)
2 qt. water
1 medium onion, chopped
1 ham bone and/or diced cooked ham
½ t. pepper
½ t. ground celery seed
1 bay leaf
1/3 c. brown sugar
¾ c. ketchup
1 T. salt
Sort and wash beans. Soak overnight in water. Save soaking water for cooking too. Put beans, water, onion, ham, pepper, celery seed and bay leaf in crock pot. Cook on high for 2 hours then low for 6-7 hours. During last half hour of cooking add sugar, ketchup and salt. Serve with vinegar if desired.

When I can this soup, the amounts vary depending on how much ham I have and the amount of ham juice and how much I’m going to make. Also, I love navy beans. Better than any other bean. When you buy ham and bean soup it is usually made with the larger great northern bean but I really like the tiny navy beans for this one. You really can’t go wrong with this soup. I have found that a pint jar of this soup is a healthy one person serving for lunch so if you want larger servings you can use quart jars and adjust the processing time. The canning process is really easy since you don’t have to precook the beans, just sort, soak overnight and you are good to go.

Canned Ham and Beans
2 lbs. small white navy beans - sorted and soaked overnight
Diced or shredded ham (the more the better)
6 qt. water
2 medium onions, chopped
Chopped celery leaves or 1- 2 finely diced celery stalks (optional)
1 t. fresh ground pepper
Salt to taste (taste test after mixture boils a couple of minutes)
Leftover Ham juice (if you have it)
½ - 1 c. ketchup (optional)
½ c. brown sugar (optional)
In a large kettle, bring to a boil, water, soaked uncooked beans, onion, celery leaves, ham, ham juice, and pepper. Bring to a boil and let simmer a couple of minutes. Add 2 t. salt and stir well. Taste test just the juice and add more salt as desired. Also add more ketchup and brown sugar if you want a sweeter tomatoey taste. If you don’t like the hint of tomato, leave the ketchup and brown sugar out for a plainer bean soup.
For pints: In each jar put about ¾ c of the beans and ham mixture and finish filling with the liquid (so that you don’t get all juice or all beans in a jar). Wipe jar rims, put on new flats and secure rims. Pressure in your pressure canner. Process @ 10 lbs. pressure for 60 minutes.

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