Multi-Bean Soup

Once upon a time, a nearby grocery store had a nice section of bulk foods, and I could just get a scoop or 2 of a whole bunch of different beans - navy, great northerns, pinto, red, red kidney, black, large and baby limas, lentils, green and yellow split peas, black-eyed peas, plus barley and dried cracked hominy - and make a reasonable sized batch of mixed beans. Unfortunately, there is no longer a bulk food section in this area–I've had to resort to 1 lb bags, so now making my bean mix results in a large batch. The most recent one tipped the scale at about 15 lbs, so I'll probably be giving jars or bags of bean mix as gifts in the upcoming holiday season ... could this bounty possibly rival zucchini season???

The following recipe has sort of evolved through many pots of soup - it's really intended as a starting point, from which you can create your own variations. It will work as well with just one kind of bean as with a mixture of many. Instead of ham, you could cook the beans, then slice and saute some low fat smoked sausage, and add it with the chopped onions, carrots and celery.


Wash and sort through beans, discarding any discolored, or shriveled beans or stones which may be present. In large pot (at least 5-6 qt), cover beans with water, bring to a boil and cook for about 1 min; cover and let sit for 1 hr. Drain and return to pot.

To beans, add ham shanks, quartered onions, celery, bay leaf, tomatoes, and water to about 1-1/2" above the beans, bring to a boil, then lower heat, cover and simmer for 1-1/2 to 2 hrs, or until beans are cooked to your liking. Stir occasionally to be sure it's not sticking; add more hot water as needed. I often put everything into a crock pot and cook overnight or until the beans are done - this way, there's no problem with the beans sticking to the bottom of the pot, and you can pretty well ignore them.

Remove meat and bones from pot and set aside. Cut meat up when cool enough to handle.

Add onions, carrots and celery to beans and simmer about 20 min or until vegetables are done; return meat to pot and season to taste.

Serve with French bread, cornbread, or a fresh loaf from the bread machine and enjoy!

Yield: This makes a pretty good-sized pot of soup - how many it serves sort of depends on the appetites you're dealing with. It reheats or freezes well, so I often freeze leftovers in freezer bags in 1-2 portion amounts - it's sure nice to grab a bag from the freezer and zap it when you don't have time to cook!