There’s not many things better than coming home to a warm pot of soup on a chilly fall evening, and bean soups are especially filling, nutritious, easy to cook, and budget-friendly. Problem is, they’re not always tummy-friendly. But luckily, I recently learned a little trick. Adding about a teaspoon of baking soda to the soaking water before cooking will make dried beans cook up nice and tender like buttah, without turning to mush. It will also make them much easier to digest.
When I was growing up my mom would often make a pot of bean soup with smoked ham hocks. The flavor is out of this world, but for whatever reason, ham hocks have gotten harder and harder to find. I can usually score one from the butcher at the grocery store, if I remember to plan ahead and call him a day or two in advance. If I forget (like I did this week), bacon makes a great substitute, and that’s something I always keep on hand! So I keep this recipe up my sleeve for those days when I’m running on empty, when I’m in between grocery trips and down to mere pantry staples, or when I just flat need some comfort food. Serve it up with some warm buttermilk biscuits, and call it dinner!
- 1 lb dried beans of your choice (suggestion: navy, black, pinto, Great Northern, 7- or 15-bean blend)
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 lb thick-sliced bacon
- 1 1/2 c. diced carrots
- 1 small onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 qt chicken broth
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tsp. each dried thyme and rosemary
- salt and pepper to taste
- Rinse beans in colander under cold running water, and check for any small rocks or debris. Place beans in a large pot with enough water to cover. Stir in baking soda. Cover and bring to a rapid boil. Remove from heat and let stand for 1 hr. Meanwhile cut bacon into 1 inch pieces. Brown in a skillet over med-high heat until very crispy. Remove bacon to paper towels and set aside.
- Drain and rinse beans in colander.
- In a large slow cooker, combine beans, bacon, onion, carrot, herbs, and broth. Cover and cook 6-8 hrs on high or 10-12 hrs on low. Remove lid for last hour to let liquid reduce slightly. Taste for doneness, add salt and pepper as desired.