Ham & Bean Soup

        From the blog For Love of the Table

1 lb. dried white beans (Great Northern, Baby limas, Navy, etc.)
olive oil or butter
2 medium onions (about 1 lb), diced
1 meaty ham bone, or 2 cups diced ham

Rinse the beans and place in a deep container (large enough to hold at least twice the volume of beans). Fill the container with cold water and let the beans soak overnight. I put my soaking beans in the refrigerator, but if your room is cool, they can be left at room temperature. (If you are short on time you can use the quick soak method described in my post for White Bean Soup with Sausage & Swiss Chard.)

Drain the beans and rinse. Warm a tablespoon or two of oil or butter in a 6 quart pot set over moderate heat. Add the onions and sweat briefly so that the onions will begin to soften. Add the beans and the ham bone (or chopped ham) . Add cold water to cover the beans by about an inch to an inch and a half. Bring to a simmer. Skim away and discard any foam that comes to the surface. Continue to cook the soup at a gentle simmer, stirring occasionally.

After the soup has been cooking for about an hour, remove the ham bone and pull all the meat away from the bone. Return the bone to the pot and continue to simmer the soup until the beans are very tender—about another half hour. While the soup continues to simmer, go through the meat from the bone and remove any hard bits of gristle or excess fat and discard. Coarsely chop the meat and return it to the pot.

As the soup simmers, if it becomes too thick, simply add a little water to thin it to your preferred consistency. When the beans are tender, taste and correct the seasoning. Depending on your ham, you may or may not need to add more salt. Add a generous grinding of black pepper and divide among serving bowls. Serve with cornbread or biscuits on the side. Serves 6.

(Recipe adapted from The Supper Book by Marion Cunningham