smoked ham, kale and white bean soup
I’ve had a ham steak in my freezer for about 2 months. I think I bought it on sale at the supermarket and I had immediate ideas on what to do with it but I ended up doing nothing, instead. Gradually, it became buried beneath packages of frozen peas and meats wrapped in freezer paper. It would probably still be in its frosty hibernation if I didn’t notice that I had, not one, but two bags of great northern beans in my pantry. Soup!
Partnered with some fresh kale, this is one of the most warming, satisfying, umami-laden bowls of goodness. It’s also ridiculously easy to make. Being from Virginia, I’ve grown up on ham, (Smithfield, Virginia is about half an hour from my parents house) and while I love making a whole ham for a party or family gathering, I’m not always in the mood for a weeklong “leftover ham” commitment when it’s just us. That’s where a ham steak is perfect. Just enough of that smoky, salty meatiness for one meal. If you don’t use these cuts regularly, you should! I add them to a potato gratin or macaroni and cheese before baking. Paired it with a salad, it’s a complete meal, with minimum fuss.
Kale has been in the food spotlight for several years, and deservedly so. Adding this nutrient-dense, leafy green to this and many soups and braises just makes sense. It’s high in Vitamin A, C, Calcium and Potassium and it’s a natural anti-inflammatory.
Plus, kale is sturdy, it stands up a thick potage. Spinach wilts in an instant, while kale gives texture and even a little chew to this soup. I really like that.
This dish is perfect for a cool fall evening, or an easy weekend lunch. Enjoy!
- 1 16 oz. bag great northern beans
- 12-14 cups water, divided
- 1 cup low sodium chicken broth
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 large ham steak with ham bone, trimmed of fat and diced
- 3 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
- 1 medium white onion, peeled and chopped
- 2 cups kale, tough stems removed, chopped
- Pour beans into a large heavy stockpot. Using your fingers, sift through the beans to find and remove any foreign materials or damaged beans. (I have found a stone or two in my beans before - so don't skip this step).
- For overnight soak: Cover beans with about 2 inches of water. Place lid on the pot and let soak overnight.
- Short on time? Quick soak your beans: Place beans in a large saucepan with 6-8 cups of water. Bring to a rapid boil on medium high heat. Boil 2 more minutes. Remove from heat; cover and let stand one hour.
- Drain beans and add 6 cups of water, chicken stock and bay leaves to beans. Cover and bring just to boiling over medium high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer gently with lid tilted, about 1 1/2 hours, until beans are tender. Remove from heat.
- Ladle out about 2 cups of beans and cooking liquid and set aside. Add ham, ham bone, carrots and onions to beans and simmer 15-20 minutes until vegetables are tender.
- Meanwhile, add reserved beans to a food processor or blender and puree until smooth. Pour the puree into the soup pot and stir. Add kale, cover and simmer 20 minutes more. Serve.
- If the soup gets too thick, add water about a half cup at a time, until you achieve the desired consistency.