Growing up, the one meal I hated more than any other was when my mother fixed ham and beans. I think we had them at least once a week and no matter how much she coaxed, pleaded or screamed, I would not eat them. The rest of my family loved them and covered them with ketchup (gross!!) and chopped raw onion. I would push them around my plate and pretend that I had eaten a few. After what seemed like hours, mom would relent and let me get up from the table. I would then go over to the candy cabinet (yes, we actually had a cabinet stocked with our favorite candy) and get some red vines or a few packets of sours ( those were a Smarties type of rolled candy that I don't know the correct name for, but a little on the fizzy side and oh so good).
I found this recipe and it looked so good that I decided to give the old bean and ham night a resurrection. This recipe comes from Cook's Country December/January 2008 edition and is very good. The ham is the real star of this recipe and it's very easy to prepare. The addition of the the vinegar at the end really brightens the flavor.
Ham and Bean Soup
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 lb. ham steak, patted dry and diced
1 onion, chopped
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
6 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
6 cups water
2 smoked ham hocks
1 lb. dried navy beans, soaked overnight
2 tsp. minced fresh thyme
1/2 tsp. pepper
3 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium heat until just smoking. Add ham and cook until browned, about 3 minutes. Add onion, carrot and celery and cook until softened, about 8 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant about 30 seconds. Stir in broth, water, hocks and beans. Bring to a boil, then reduce to medium low and simmer until beans are completely tender and the soup is slightly thickened, about 1 1/2 hours. ( I skimmed a lot of fat from the surface of my soup.)
Remove hocks from pot. If desired, let cool for 5 minutes, then shred meat and add to the soup. Stir in thyme, pepper and vinegar. Serve.