My Holland Grandma was a lovely woman and an excellent cook. She was NOT a creative cook, though. I don't think that my mom and her sisters exaggerate to say that you always knew what day of the week it was by what was for dinner. If I remember right, Tuesdays were for beans.
Grandma had a couple of different bean recipes. One of them was a black-eyed pea dish with Indonesian spices that my Mom loved and my Aunt hated. I must concur with Auntie on this one. When Mom would get a hankering for this childhood food and make it for us, I could barely face the evening for knowing that damn pot of beans was in it. It smelled like the north end of a jackass walking south and I detested that crap.
So I won't share that recipe with you.
Partly because, oddly enough, I never asked Mom to teach me how to make it.
Grandma did make a fine bean soup that was nearly good enough to redeem her black eyed peas. Grandma used salt pork in her recipe, but I'm going to share my lightened up version here. It is very simple to make this a completely vegetarian dish by choosing only veggie stock and omitting any meat. You may recall that I said previously that there is no way to make a little bit of soup. This is true. What I'm going to share with you is how to make soup packets to freeze. Then all you have to do is grab one out in the morning, toss it in the crockpot and when you come home at the end of the day, add 3 things to it and chow down.
You'll need, first of all, a bean soup mix. Bob's Red Mill makes a nice one. Mine came from the grower in Willcox, Arizona. But let's go healthy all the way and look for an organic one, such as these:
It doesn't matter how many varieties of beans are in there. You can even make this with all one kind, such as Anasazi, pinto, white beans or black beans. Me, I like a mix.
You also need:
- 1 32 ounce container of unsalted chicken or vegetable stock
- 1 large sweet onion
- 2 leeks or 3 shallots
- 3 or 4 cloves of garlic, crushed or minced
- 4 bay leaves
- 6-8 good sized carrots
- 1 bunch of celery
- Dried or fresh thyme
- Ground pepper
- Olive oil
- if you want to add meat, you'll need about six slices of bacon, or some bacon ends, or some cubed ham, or some sausage. But you really don't need to add meat to this.
- Quart sized freezer bags, or other similar sized freezer containers.
Separately, you'll need:
- Tomatoes: 2 cans of petite diced or crushed tomatoes, depending on how chunky you want the final soup.
- 1 Tablespoon of lemon juice
- salt to taste, which you may not need at all if you included bacon or ham in your beans.
- More freezer bags, sandwich bags or something to freeze this in separately.
A few notes on beans.
Many recipes say you must soak beans overnight. I used to do that, but I haven't done so in years. After a lot of reading and personal experiences, I find that it does not significantly shorten cooking time (which doesn't matter in a crock pot soup anyway) and it DOES increase -- uh--- the flatulent properties of this magical fruit. Which makes you toot. It doesn't have to. Take 2 or 3 fennel seed capsules before you start eating your soup and you'll notice a drastic improvement in the tooting later on. Even though we aren't going to do a traditional soak on the beans in this recipe, we are going to do a pre-cook in stock, to help the beans incorporate the flavors and give the right all-day cooking time later on.
You should never add acid (tomatoes and lemon juice, for instance) until the very last things. Add them at the beginning and it messes up the texture of the beans.
First, pick over your beans very carefully. Look for little rocks and any beans that are too shriveled or not the right color.
Place your beans in a pot large enough that the beans fill it to halfway or less. Then cover the beans with the chicken stock. Add some water if you need to so that the beans are completely covered and you have about equal amounts of beans as liquid. Heat over medium heat until simmering. Stir them occasionally until the cooking time is complete. Just keep an eye on them because they will start absorbing the liquid.
Meanwhile, prep your veggies. This is so easy. How big do you like the veggies in your soup? Cut them that big. Chop the onion rather small. Cut the tough green end and the root end from the leeks, slice them lengthwise and wash them well, being sure to get any grit and dirt out from between the layers. Scrub the carrots (no need to peel unless they sprouting a bit and kinda hairy), chop off the root and tip and cut up the good part. Cut the root end from the celery, wash the stalks thoroughly. Save the largest outer stalks for another use if you want to, but do be sure to include the celery leaves and hearts in this.
In a large skillet or everyday pan, heat a little olive oil (or, if you're using bacon or sausage in the soup, brown it and reserve a little bit of the grease for the next part:). Toss in the onion and saute until it's browning nicely. Throw in the bay leaves and toast them a bit. Add the leeks or shallots. Add the rest of the herbs: a good palmful of fresh minced thyme or about a tablespoon of dried. A teaspoon of pepper or so, and then the garlic. Saute a little longer, then add the carrots and celery and cook another 10 minutes or so. Stir in the meat, if you're including any.
When your beans have simmered for 30 - 40 minutes (time is not critical here, in case you get caught up in an episode of Housewives of Palo Pinto County) OR when the liquid has been pretty much absorbed, remove them from the heat and let them cool completely, without draining them.
In a perfect world, when the beans are at this stage, there may not be a lot of liquid left. After they are completely cooled drain the beans and reserve any remaining liquid (IF you are confident that your freezer containers won't leak it out).
Combine your sauteed veggies with the beans and mix them well so that everything is evenly distributed. Set aside the bay leaves.
For one person, I would use one dry-measure cup of bean-veggie mix per quart bag if you don't want a whole ton of left overs. Gauge your portions to fit your own needs.
In a separate bowl, combine the tomatoes and lemon juice and give it a righteous stir. This part is important, now: DO NOT add the tomato mixture right in with the beans. They'll never cook to that happy, creamy texture.
How many bags of beans do you have? Divide the tomato mixture among that many separate sandwich or freezer bags. Cut the bay leaves into that many pieces and tuck a piece in each bag of beans.
At this point, I freeze all the bags independently. Then when they're all frozen, I tuck a tomato bag into a bean bag so everything is together in one handy packet. You do whatever suits you.
On cooking day, Just empty a bag of bean mixture into your crockpot (the smallest sized ones work great for this) and cover with plenty of water. Probably 2 cups of water to 1 cup of beans. Set the tomato packet into a bowl or something in the fridge. You'll deal with that when you get home.
Put the cooker on the lowest cooking setting and go save the world for the day. When you get home, taste a bean to make sure it's cooked through. If not, crank the cooker up for half an hour or so, but it will be cooked through, I'm sure. Toss in the tomato-lemon packet and when everything is hot again, enjoy your dinner.
Serve with crusty bread, a bright green salad and a nice red wine. Something like a grenache would be lovely with this. Excellent when eaten while wearing feety pajamas. Trap door UP, if you please.