I think it was at the last farmers’ market of the season. It might have been the second-to-last one. Anyway, all of the vendors were selling out the last of their stock, and there were some great deals. With the shelves clearing out, we also found things that we may have overlooked on our previous trips.
At the booth for Windy Ridge Gardens, a little splash of colour caught my eye. They were selling one pound bags of dry beans. The orca beans especially intrigued me.
These beans are well-named, because they really do look like roly-poly killer whales. Picture a wee dorsal fin and a tail on each one, and you could mistake them for teeny weeny stuffed animals. I’d never heard of them, so of course I had to try them!
The beans sat in the cupboard until just after New Years. We got ourselves a shank-end ham for our New Years dinner. After gorging ourselves on sliced ham and cutting off a lot for leftovers (ham sandwiches, ham and cheese omelets, scalloped potatoes, ham ham spam and ham, etc), we still had a rather meaty bone left. I tossed it in a bag and stuck it in the freezer. A few weeks later, while we were in the throes of the cold blast, I decided we needed ham and bean soup.
I love my crock pot. It’s an old Rival model that my parents got for me before I was married. It isn’t fancy: it does high and low, has a removable crock, and will hold 5 quarts. (It also came with an awesome insulated carrying case, which has served us well for pot lucks.) There’s nothing like coming home to a hot meal that’s ready to eat.
One thing that’s held me back from using it as much as I could, though, is that I am really pressed for time in the morning. Err, let me rephrase that: It takes me forever to get going in the morning. Crock pot recipes that require prep (say, browning meat, cooking onion, etc) just aren’t going to get done in the morning here. However, when I realized that a lot of this could be done the night before, it opened a lot more recipes for me.
Like the soup! There’s no picture of the soup, sorry. But hey, it looked like soup! Use your imagination. I knew this would require some prep, so I figured that all out a day in advance. You will need:
* a meaty ham bone (ours had about 1 to 1 1/2 cups of chopped ham left on it)
* 1 lb dry orca beans (these are also called calypso beans, or you can substitute white beans)
* 1 onion, chopped
* 3 celery stalks, chopped
* 1 carrot, chopped
* 3 cloves garlic, minced
* salt and pepper
* bay leaf
* olive oil
The night before, put about 2tsp olive oil in a frying pan and heat over medium. Cook the onions, carrot, celery and garlic until the onion is just soft. Sprinkle with just a bit of kosher salt (remember that the ham will have salt in it!) and as much ground pepper as you want. Transfer all of this into your crock pot crock, cover, and put in the fridge.
Put the beans in a bowl of cold water and let soak overnight. Remove the ham bone from the freezer and put in the fridge, if necessary.
In the morning, while you’re making your coffee, drain the water from the beans. Put the beans in a pot and cover with about two inches of water. Bring to a boil, and then let them simmer, uncovered, for about 1/2 an hour.
Remove the crock from the fridge and let it come back up to room temperature. Drain the beans and add them to the crock. Put the ham bone in the crock. Add about 1/2 tsp of dried thyme and the bay leaf to the crock. Add enough water to cover everything; be aware that the beans might soak up a bit more water. Don’t overfill the crock!
Turn the crock pot on to low and let cook for 8-10 hours.
When you get home, remove the bone from the soup. Remove all of the meat from the bone and chop it into bite-sized pieces. Add it back to the soup. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.
Serve it on a bitterly cold winter night with a loaf of crusty bread.