Saturday, September 15, 2007

U.S. Senate Bean Soup

I used to live in the hometown of a U.S. Senator who loved this recipe. Knute Nelson wasn't alive anymore when I lived there, but the local historical society had his family home turned into a museum, and every year at Christmas time they hold an open house. Along with traditional Scandinavian foods, which they make because this Senator was Norwegian by family background, they make this recipe because legend has it he was the one who made it a law that the U.S. Senate cafeteria serve this soup every day. He, obviously, could not make this a law all on his own, but legend says that he proposed the law and rallied the support among among his fellow congressman.

In any case, he loved this soup, and I have grown to love it, too. And yesterday, because it's starting to feel chilly around this part of the Midwest these days, I made a big batch of this soup to serve with homemade whole wheat rolls and big slices of the last of this season's tomatoes. My husband, who had been working in a cold garage all day, had two big bowls and proclaimed it to be the best ham and bean soup he had ever tasted. I had made a similar recipe before, but had never tried the "official" version...I wonder if the federal law mandates a particular recipe? If so, I have to admit that I added more meat, because my husband doesn't feel like it's a real meal unless the soup has plenty of meat in the bowl.

1 lb. dry great northern beans
1 meaty ham bone (plus chopped ham, as needed to make it hearty)
3 medium onions, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 celery stalks, chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 cup mashed potatoes
salt and pepper to taste (I used garlic salt)
fresh parsley or chives for garnish

Rinse and sort beans, and then place them in a large heavy soup kettle with enough water to cover them by 2 inches. Boil for 2 minutes, and then remove from heat and allow them to stand for 1-4 hours until the beans are softened. (I let them stand for a couple of hours, and then boiled them again for a few minutes to speed the softening process.)

Drain and rinse the beans, discarding the liquid. Add them back to the pot with the ham bone and three quarts of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer for 2 hours.

Skim fat if necessary. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer for another hour. Then remove the ham bone and, when it's cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the bone, cut it into bite-sized pieces, and add it back to the soup pot. Discard the bone. Heat the soup through, and then serve in bowls, sprinkling pieces of chives or parsley for garnish.

This recipe makes 2-1/2 quarts of soup, enough for 8-10 servings.


USAincognito said...

Yummy!! This definitely sounds good on a cold morning like today!!

Karen said...

This is a wonderful recipe! :-)