Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Old Fashioned Pinto Bean Soup

One of the commenters (Bustedknuckles) is looking for a recipe for old fashioned bean soup. Here is mine but if you have one you like please post it. This is a simple soup but there are two 'secrets' to a great bean soup. Soak the beans overnight in salted water then drain and rinse using fresh water for the cooking and finally remove a cup of so of the cooked beans at the end and either mash them by hand or run them through a blender or food processor to make a 'gravy' to add back into the rest of the beans. A lot of old recipes for beans warn not to salt the soaking water but it is somewhat like brining chicken or turkey and it really helps the beans maintain their integrity when cooking.

1 pound dried pinto beans soaked over night in 2 quarts of water with 2 tablespoons of kosher salt then drained and rinsed
8 cups water (or a little more)
2 tablespoons butter (you can use oil if you insist)
1 cup finely chopped celery
1 cup finely chopped carrot (optional but I sometimes add it to sweeten the soup a little)
1 cup finely chopped onion
2 bay leaves
1 clove garlic minced

1 - 2 tablespoons chili powder according to your preference (I use Penzey's regular chili powder and I only need one... it's not supposed to be chili after all)

In a large heavy bottomed pot or ideally a Dutch oven saute the onion, garlic and celery (and carrots if using) in the butter until tender. Add the chili powder to the pan and saute with the vegetables for a minute or so until you can smell it. Add the beans and water along with the bay leaves. Bring to a low bowl and the lower the heat to a bare simmer. Cook covered for two and a half or three hours stirring occasionally and adding additional water if necessary. The beans should be nicely tender but not mushy. If you are using very old beans it might take a little longer. Once the beans are done remove a cup or so and either mash with a fork (my grandmother's method) or run them through the food processor. Return the mashed/blended beans to the pot and check the consistency. If you want a thicker soup then repeat the mashing bit until you get what you want. Don't forget to remove the bay leaves.
This makes a big pot of soup that will easily serve 8 especially if you make a big pan of cornbread to go along.

Note: I have also added a cup of smoked ham to this just to add the smokiness but you could also add

1 teaspoon ground cumin when you add the chili powder to bring some smokiness to the party and there is always adobo sauce as well. I kind of like the all vegan idea and I almost always add the cumin instead of the ham. Not that I have anything against ham mind you.

If you are in the mood for beans here are some other good bean recipes that I have posted over the years are Cajun style red beans and Hearty Bean Soup and Tuscan Bean Stew

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