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Last time my parents had a spiral sliced ham, I took the bone and tossed it in the freezer. I pulled it out a couple days ago and put it in a pot with 12 cups of water and a quartered onion, a couple of carrots and stalks of celery. After two hours of simmering, I had enough hambone stock for making soup.

Dry beans last a good long while but the older they are, the longer it takes for them to soften. I knew the package I had was old (which is why I soaked them for a day and a half before starting) but didnt know just how old mine were until I had simmered them for over five hours before they finally softened. I ended up using 8 cups of stock. With fresher beans, you might need less stock.

By pureeing the veggies and adding them toward the end, their flavor stays bright and they will also thicken the soup broth. If you want an even thicker broth, add a tablespoon of flour to the skillet when sauting the veggies and cook for 5 minutes to take away the raw flavor, stirring regularly. Splash in a little water or extra stock in to deglaze the pan and then puree the veggies. When added to the soup, it will only take about 10 minutes of simmering to make the flavorful broth, thick and smooth.

White Bean Soup

1 lb dried navy or great northern beans
5 to 8 cups chicken or hambone stock
1 large bay leaf
teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced
cup coarsely chopped celery
2 carrots, peeled and diced
salt and pepper to taste

Pick over beans and soak overnight in water.

Drain and put beans, 4 cups stock, bay leaf, and thyme in a large pot. Bring to a simmer and continue to cook until beans get tender and fall apart, usually about 1 to 2 hours. Add another 2-4 cups of stock if the soup has reduced too much by the end of cooking time.

Meanwhile, place olive oil in a large skillet and saut onion for five minutes. Add in garlic and saut until flavorful. Add in celery and carrots and continue to cook until they soften. Scrape into a food processor or blender and puree. Add the puree to the beans when you add the additional stock to the softened beans. Bring back to a simmerand taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper, if necessary.

Serve immediately with bread for sopping up the juices.

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