Friday, October 1, 2010

Heaven-Sent Ham Soup and Breathtaking Biscuits

It is fall here in the Inland Northwest, and that means it is time for football, falling leaves, chilly nights, harvest moons, late roses...and soup. Doesn't a fall day just make you want to get out your favorite, comfortable soup recipes? Well, it has that effect on me- in fact, I've just decided to have one soup night a week (at
least through the winter!). Soup Saturdays! :) Most soups can be made in the crock-pot, which makes them tantalizingly easy, and most freeze well, which adds to the appeal! Well, I speak of old, familiar recipes, but the one I tried last week was a new one concocted from familiar flavors. It is a traditional ham and navy bean soup, but depending on the flavor your meat holds, you could get a completely different taste each time! So I will recount for you my ham's history...

I normally don't cook a roast or a ham unless we are having company, because it is such a large meal for just two people. So, when we found out our friends from Oregon would be spending some time with us, I knew it was the perfect excuse to use the ham in my freezer! The day company arrives, I usually try to have a crock-pot dinner, since it allows me to be more free to visit with my guests instead of slaving away in the kitchen, making them feel like they need to help me. So, having decided on the ham (and it was a rather small ham), I began the internet search for a really great crock-pot whole ham recipe. This was a challenge, because, a
s usual, there were a lot of them. I came across many recipes for hams cooked in cola, which interested and frightened me at the same time. It sounded adventurous (My mom later informed me it is a southern trait to cook everything imaginable in cola), but what if it didn't turn out well? And all I had was
Wild Cherry Pepsi and Diet Coke on hand...and several recipes warned against diet. I finally found comments stating that cherry cola gave a good flavor and decided on a recipe that had a brown sugar, mustard and cola glaze. So I bravely followed the recipe, which made a thick paste to smooth over the ham, then put the ham in the crock pot and poured the rest of the cola in the bottom. There it sat, simmering happily all day, and it smelled wonderfully promising! I snitched a piece once the ham was cooked through and it was marvelous! I will standby the
fact that I think this is the best ham I have ever had. I will make it again. And again. For family. For parishioners. Even foreign dignitaries, if they should drop by. ;)

Anyway, that is the background on my ham. The original recipe said to reserve the extra liquid and use it in a soup, so I did. The soup recipe I used was simply a ham and white bean soup, which called for cannellini or Great Northern beans, but I just used navy, which are also, ironically enough, white. :) I soaked them overnight, then, in the morning I rinsed them and threw them into the crock-pot with the ham bone and the chopped up leftover ham, some beautiful onions (fresh from my father-in-law's farm!), carrots, celery, garlic, the leftover liquid plus water, pepper, salt and then I stopped. Hmmm. The recipe called for "Herbs de Provence." Not sure what blend that was, I went to my trusty Better Homes and Gardens cookbook, flipping to the section which described different herbs and spices. Sure enough, they mentioned the mysterious "Herbs de Provence" and claimed it was equal parts basil, fennel, lavender, marjoram, rosemary, sage, savory and thyme. Leaving out the ones that I did not posses (lavender and sage), I made my own by scooping 1/4 tsp of each into a container, sealing it, and shaking thoroughly to mix. I doubled the recipe (but only added one extra cup of liquid) so I could have some extra and it made enough for one dinner, one lunch, and enough to freeze for another dinner!

When all this was in the crock-pot, I put it on low and left it to simmer for the rest of the day. Later I scoured the internet again for a biscuit recipe using whole wheat flour (part of my effort to cook healthier!). The one I found (whole wheat buttermilk biscuits) turned out absolutely delicious, hands down the best biscuit I have ever tasted, if I do say so myself.

The soup was so yummy and fallish, with wonderful sweet and subtle herb flavors and the biscuits, as I stated before but must say again, were out of this world! I think I had three (tsk tsk). :)

White Bean and Ham Soup
(printable version)
from Today's Creative Crock-Pot
serves 4

1/2 lb cannellini or Great Northern Beans (or navy!) soaked overnight
1 ham shank or meaty ham bone
1 med. carrot, diced
1 med. yellow onion, diced
2 ribs celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 qt. water (or liquid plus water)
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. Herbs de Provence

Place everything in slow cooker, stir gently. Cover, cook on low 8-10 hrs or high 4-6 hrs.

Whole Wheat Buttermilk biscuits can be found here, except I added 2 tbsp of honey to the mix! :)

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