Wednesday, January 11, 2017

What Smells SO Good?

That's what Sweetie asked after he came in from cutting up the Christmas tree to put it into the green recycle bin. We finally took down the tree today and put all the decorations and ornaments and lights up in the attic until next year. Usually I would have done it on January 7th (the day after Epiphany), but we have been having terrible wind and rain since the weekend and it was nice having the lights and soft glow of the round ornaments during the rain. Of course we also had some blackouts with no power - 3 hours and then about 6 hours, plus a few brief ones, (less than a minute), so no comfort from the tree lights then. Still, we are on high ground, so no flooding here. We didn't lose too many tree limbs, although our old apple tree did fall over, which is very sad.

Our friend and neighbor Phil also asked, "What smells so good?" when he came by this afternoon to borrow a few gallon jugs of well water. Our neighbors are on a different power line and had been out of power for about 14 hours by then and needed a little extra. Fortunately, I usually fill up about a dozen during December for times like these. We have our well water treated with a salt, so for tea and coffee I use bottled spring water because it has more acid than the treated water, so it's better tasting, for tea especially. I just fill those as they empty and label them with the date and "Well".

So what did smell so good? The Country Bean, Ham and Cabbage Soup that took most of the day to make. This is one of those recipes that are good to do when you're going to be hanging out at home much of the day. We did get a walk in with Pi between storms,

and saw how flooded the Laguna de Santa Rosa was on High School Rd. in Sebastopol. Many roads in the Santa Rosa area have flooded and there have been mudslides and evacuations from low lying areas. We have had over 11 inches of rain since Sunday. A good time for soup since there is more rain today and will be a little more tomorrow. Taking care of the Christmas tree was also a 'between the storms' thing since we finally had a day where there was a break between storms.

You actually start this soup recipe the night before. You rinse dry white beans and put them to soak with water covering them. (Actually put at least an inch of water over them. They soak it all up during the night). The next day there are draining, rinsing and simmering sessions. The longest is for an hour and a half. Most of the rest are for 15 minutes or a half hour. It does take a little time to chop the veggies and to make the herb bouquet. Towards the end of the process you have to take a few minutes to fish out the herb bouquet to discard and to cut the ham into bite sized chunks, as well as to slice up the cabbage. The recipe calls for a roux of cooked flour and butter to thicken the soup, but mine simmered so long that it didn't need any thickening.

Give this a try. The recipe is from my Mom, but I don't know where she got it from...I just make it and enjoy it. It is hearty, tasty, stick-to-your-ribs good, and pretty healthy, too. It makes lots, so there are leftovers which are even more delicious than the original meal. Just be prepared for that question: What Smells SO Good?

Country Bean Ham and Cabbage Soup

2 1/3 cup dry pea beans (Great Northern, white beans)
1 3-lb cooked picnic ham, bone in
1 celery stalk, sliced
2 carrots, quartered and sliced
5 sprigs parsley + 2 bay leaves tied together
2 medium onion, sliced, plus 1 onion stuck with
3 whole cloves
4 garlic cloves, mashed
½ teaspoon EACH dried thyme & ground pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 can tomatoes
1 small head green cabbage, sliced in 1/4” slices

Cover beans with cold water by at least an inch and let stand overnight. 

Drain, rinse, return to pot and cover with fresh water and bring to a boil. Turn off heat and soak for 1 hour. 

Drain & rinse & return beans to the pot. Add ham. Add enough water to cover the beans. Bring to a low simmer and simmer 15 minutes. 

Add the vegetables, herbs, onions and seasonings to pot. Cover and simmer 1 ½  hours. 

Add the tomatoes and simmer ½  hour. If tomatoes stay whole, chop them up with a spoon. 

Remove herb bouquet and whole onion. 

Add the cabbage, stir, and simmer ½ hour. 

Remove any ham bones and discard. Cut up any ham chunks into bite sized pieces and return to the pot.

Make a roux of 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons flour, cooked in a small pan until light brown. Add it to soup. Simmer 15 minutes. 

Taste and season with more salt and/or pepper as needed. Serve hot.


  1. Next Sister Down7:02 AM

    I know where the recipe came from: Carol Cutler's "The Six-Minute Souffle," published in 1976. I think it's out of print now, but it's a wonderful cookbook. In the book, the soup recipe is said to serve 14, so it came in handy more than once when we had a big crowd. I'm pretty sure Mom penciled in a "V.G." on that page.

  2. Thanks! I always like to give credit to the author. It really is very good :)

  3. Lovely soup Pat.
    Rain, yes California finally is getting rain ... couple days more sun and we'll have more.