Let’s take a trip down memory lane, shall we, while I tell you of my love for ham and beans. All through grade school and most of my teenage years, my best friend was Robyn Redford. She had all of the Nancy Drew books and every summer we would reread them together. Sometime when we were early teenagers, she decided that she wanted to be a candy striper at the local hospital. Then, and now, I hate hospitals. Everything about them. From the hospital smell, the soft squish of the nurses shoes, the swish of doors opening and closing, the rattling of cart wheels. But Robyn was a leader and I was a follower, and I kind of liked the cute little striped outfit that we got to wear.
So, we became candy stripers. From the beginning, she excelled and I was worthless. I made mistake after mistake. I remember some older man, gamely chewing the chicken that I had cut up for him, when the nurse came charging in, saying that he had no teeth and was on a liquid diet! Once, I accidentally walked in on an enema being given to someone who looked like he was about 105 years old. That scene is forever burned on my retinas and in my memory.
But the one thing this hospital had was ham & beans. Yep, every Thursday the cafeteria served ham & beans. I know that this is also called Senate Bean Soup because it is served in the cafeteria of the Senate. I don’t know how good it is at the Senate cafeteria (and probably never will), but at St. John’s Mercy Medical Center, it was good, very good. I tried to make sure that I volunteered every Thursday. I held out as long as I could, I would like to say because of the gratification of volunteering, but it was this soup, and only this soup that kept me going (well, and the cute outfit).
One of the greatest joys of being an adult is knowing that I can have this soup whenever I want it. I don’t have to volunteer at a **shudder** hospital, or only have it on Thursdays. So, anytime I have ham, this is what happens to the ham bone. Always.
Ham & Bean Soup
Serves 8 (unless one of them is me and then all bets are off)
1 meaty ham bone
1 onion, chopped
1 lb great northern beans (some prefer navy beans, but I like great northern)
1-2 bay leaves
1-2 stalks of celery chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 carrot, diced (optional)
8 cups of water
I do my ham and beans in the crockpot, but they can also be made on the stove.
Soak beans in water over night, sort and place in pot. Add the rest of the ingredients. Cook on low on the crockpot for 10-12 hours. Before serving, remove the ham bone, shred the meat and return to the pot. If you are cooking it on the stove, start checking your beans after about 2 hours.
Serve with cornbread, preferably!
Cooked with lots of butter!