Easy Ultimate Crockpot Navy Bean Soup with Ham
Comfort Food In a Crockpot
You know, there's something wonderful about crockpot cooking - actually, there are several wonderful things. You can assemble your meal in the morning when things are a little less hectic, and let it cook while you go about your day's business. You can clean up from your prep work and enjoy a nice, tidy kitchen while your meal bubbles away. And my personal favorite, you can walk in your front door after a hard day, and be greeted by the wonderful smell of a dinner that's ready to eat - it's kind of like having your own personal chef slaving away all day in your kitchen.
I needed that kind of pampering recently, so I began searching the Internet for a great comfort food I'd been craving, navy bean soup. There were lots of recipes, but none seemed to have the exact combination of ingredients that I wanted, so I mixed and matched and came up with my own. I have to say, it was pretty darned tasty! Here's what I came up with:
- 1 lb. dried navy beans
- 6 C. water
- 6 oz. ham steak, large diced
- 1/3 C. diced red onion
- 1 diced celery stalk
- 1 carrot, chopped
- 1/2 t. minced garlic
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 t. sea salt
- freshly ground pepper
I like to quick soak my dried beans, usually because I forget to soak them the night before! To quick soak, place the beans in a pot with 6 cups of hot water and bring to a boil. Let boil for two minutes. Then remove the pot from heat, cover and let soak for 1 hour. After 1 hour, drain and rinse the beans.
Place the beans in your crockpot with 6 cups of fresh water plus the rest of your ingredients. Stir gently, put the lid on, and set your crockpot on high. Let the soup cook for 5-6 hours. Serve it up with cornbread muffins and enjoy! Makes 6-8 servings.
Even though it seems like a short cut, don't use the bean soaking water to cook the beans. The water contains dirt from the surface of the beans, as well as gas-causing sugars released by the soaking. Drain and rinse the beans, and use fresh water for cooking.
For the ham, I like to use ham steaks that I dice into large chunks. I buy 2-packs by Cumberland Gap, and use one steak while I freeze the other.
Rather than mess with a garlic clove, I use prepared minced garlic that I bought and keep in the fridge - no muss, no fuss, and no stinky hands. You can find it in the produce department at most grocery stores.
When my recipes call for salt, I always use sea salt instead of table salt. Sea salt is obtained naturally by evaporating sea water. Table salt has been subjected to high heat and chemicals, had the minerals stripped and has anti-caking agents and iodine added.
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Need a Crockpot?
If you don't have a crockpot, also called a slow cooker, consider adding this workhorse to your kitchen. My crockpot is over 26 years old, having belonged to my husband before we got married...it has none of the bells and whistles of today's models - in fact, it has just three settings: "HIGH", "LOW" and "OFF". The stoneware pot isn't even removable for cleaning and I still love it anyway!
So, what DO you look for in a crockpot? Shoppers have many fabulous features to choose from, so your ultimate purchase will depend on your needs. I think a basic feature to look for is a removable stoneware pot which is dishwasher safe, as well as a dishwasher safe tempered glass lid - this will make clean up a snap!
Next, consider the capacity - for singles or couples, a 3-quart pot might be just right, where larger families could use a 6-quart pot instead.
Look at the additional features the unit offers. For some, 2 or 3 heat settings might be all you need. However, some units offer many more features like programmability, cooking with a temperature probe, and a "keep warm" setting that turns the unit down once the cooking is done. A clip-on gasket lid is handier than you think - I can't tell you how many times I've driven to a potluck with packing tape holding the lid on my crockpot!
No matter which model you choose, your crockpot will be a true asset to your kitchen!
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