Grandmother used to ask me to select the white beans from lots of debris, claiming I had better eyesight then she, since the beans were an yearly production it was never in the state we all know and buy from the supermarket, nicely washed and packaged, almost makes me guilty to have it so easy today.
I remember as a child, when the beans were collected, stalks and all... and brought home stuffed in big, rough hemp sacks. Then my Grandpa would place the sacks in the front yard and ask the kids to beat the hell out of them so the beans will jump out of the dry pods.
We used to have so much fun jumping, kicking and beating the bags... what a cheap way for therapy, none of us had an ounce of energy by the end of the day.
As the day faded, tucked in my bed, with sleepy eyes I could see my grandmother, sitting in a corner, with a pile of bean stalks in her lap, checking for any stubborn beans still clinging to their pods.
Beans never tasted better than in those old days, whether she was a good cook, or was just the thought that I worked for those beans, to this day I still believe they were the best I ever had.
Years later, a long and rainy spring send me wondering for a bowl of soup... and since there is no soup I made, that I do not like, it is impossible to decide what would be most suitable for such a nasty weather. I opted for dry white beans soup... a slow process but worth waiting for.
As I cook this pot of soup I could almost feel grandma leaning over my shoulder, making sure I added all the right ingredients.
Thank you Grandma, not as good as yours, but is pretty close.
1 lb white dry bean
2-3 slices of bacon (smoked sausage or any other smoked meats)
1 medium onion
1/2 of red bell pepper
2 stalks celery
1 teaspoon dill weed
2-3 bay leaves
1 can stew tomatoes (or 2-4 fresh ones, chopped)
Salt and pepper to taste
And if you could find some lovage, if not use the leaves from celery… chopped (optional)
Soak the beans in warm water for about 1 hour.
Meanwhile, chop the bacon in small bits; chop the onion and the red pepper. Cut carrots anyway you like it.
Take a frying pan, turn the heat on medium, and fry the bacon first… add onion and red pepper and cook until onion becomes glossy (about 5 minutes). Keep mixing so the onion won’t burn. Set aside.
Take the beans and place in a large pot, cover beans with cold water, bring to a boil and let simmer for 2 minutes. Keep an eye on the pot, the beans will foam a lot.
Drain the water. Repeat 3 times.
After you drain the third water… cover about twice the height of beans with fresh water (enough water to be juicy, I don’t like thick bean soup)… place on the stove and add the bacon mixture and all the other ingredients except the parsley and lovage/celery leaves.
Let simmer on low until the carrot and the beans are cooked. Try a bean once in a while so the beans don’t overcook.
Check for salt and pepper, add the chopped greens and serve with toast.Taste divine.
For this soup if you like raw onion, make a salad:
1 red onion… crushed with your hand as much as you can until the onion becomes juicy. Cut slices and rinse under cold water. Squeeze the water and place in a bowl. Add salt, olive oil and vinegar. Serve with bean soup and fresh French bread.
1. If you are using big chunks of meat with bone as I did with the ham hocks, I suggest to boil the piece separate for about 1 hour before adding everything into the beans. Beans cook relatively fast, and if you overcook them they could turn into mush.
2. If the meat used has a heavy taste of smoke you may consider to throw away the water you pre-boiled the meat in it. I did so with the sausages.
3. Use only one type of meat not all of them. The soup will end up too heavy.