Meet the small white bean.
See how shy it is, trying to make its getaway? It slumps down to the bottom of the bowl, trying to evade my spoon. But I will catch it because it is delicious.
Small white bean, you say? What kind of small white bean?
Well . . . It came in a package labelled, “small white beans” and my mother-in-law’s soup recipe calls for “little white beans.”
And that’s all the information I’ve got. It is a shy bean, you see.
However, I am a journalist by profession, so I looked it up and have determined – fairly certainly – that it is a small white navy bean.
Whatever it is, it makes one of the most lovely, silky soups I’ve ever eaten.
This recipe comes from my Mennonite mother-in-law Loretta. It’s called “Ripe Bean Soup” – which must be a translation from Low German that didn’t quite work out in English. Because this recipe starts with dried beans.
Whatever it really means, it works. And it’s easy. The only trick is starting it a couple hours before dinnertime. Once you throw the beans and pork hock in the pot, you're pretty much done.
The small white beans make the soup unusually smooth and the smoked pork hock makes it incredibly tasty. You'll be glad you met the small white bean.
A note: Don’t be intimidated by that pork hock, if you haven’t used one before. I found a local smoked pork hock at the grocery store – it was less than $5. This is a Mennonite soup, so it must be economical!
ripe bean soup
makes 6 bowls
2 1/2 c. dried small white beans
2 tbsp. butter
12 – 14 c. water
1 1/2 – 2 lb. pork hock
1 onion, chopped finely
1/3 c. parsley, minced
1 tsp. salt
pepper to taste
1 tbsp. vinegar
1 – 2 tbsp. sour cream
Fill a big, heavy pot with the small white beans, butter, 12 cups of water and pork hock. (If you are a bit picky about fatty pieces of pork hock, you can carefully cut off the fat and skin, and just use the meat and bone in your soup.)
Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat until the stock simmers away. Cover. Let simmer for about 2 hours, until the beans are tender.
Half an hour before you’d like to eat, throw in the onion, parsley, salt, and some freshly ground pepper. Simmer. Part way through the cooking, taste and decide if you should add the other 2 cups of water and more salt. You might not need to.
Once the soup is ready and the beans are soft and splitting, stir in the vinegar and sour cream.
Garnish with a piece of parsley if you’re feeling fancy.