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Please consider

So, how bored will you be if we talk about soup again? Ham Bone, Greens, and Bean Soup? I didn’t set out to write about this one - I made it mostly as a vehicle for a ham bone that I put in our freezer last April, forgot, and then triumphantly unearthed the week before last - but June liked it so much that she did her special high chair "dance," swaying from side to side and grunting, so I changed my mind. Swaying and grunting: strong praise from young June E. A. Pettit! (Also, Swaying and Grunting: what I will call my debut album when I launch my third career as a down-and-out country singer.)

I know that it’s almost Thanksgiving, and that I’m supposed to be talking about cranberries or what to eat with your turkey, and that you and I both have planes to catch and grocery lists to write, but please consider filing away this recipe for the future, a future after the holidays, when you may find yourself with a couple of free hours and a defrosted ham bone that was once lost beneath some frozen bananas. This soup is for a day like that, a cold day when soup is what a person wants to eat, a nice ordinary day. June and I shared a bowl of it one Sunday night, and I ate another bowl while I did payroll on Monday afternoon, and it was so good, so right for right now, that I considered hoarding the rest of the batch. But because no expense is too great for the opportunity to watch June "dance," I let her have it.

The recipe for this soup comes from Melissa Clark and her wonderful book Cook This Now. I was flipping through it recently, and I don’t know what it is, but every recipe she writes sounds fantastic. She’s... bewitching. That’s the word for it.  I read one of her recipe titles, any one of her recipe titles, and I come to a few minutes later, standing in front of the refrigerator. Buckwheat Pancakes with Sliced Peaches and Cardamom Cream Syrup! I don’t like anything but maple syrup on my pancakes - the truth, revealed - but because of Melissa, I will make that damned cardamom cream syrup. And Seared Wild Salmon with Brown Butter Cucumbers!   Fragrant Lentil Rice Soup with Spinach and Crispy Onions!  Ham Bone, Greens, and Bean Soup!!!!!!  My tea this morning might have been stronger than I thought.

This soup is one of those full-meal-in-one-bowl numbers, thick with beans, carrots, celery, onion, cabbage, and kale, with big flavor from the ham bone and some bacon fat.  (You start the recipe by cooking chopped bacon, which you then scoop out and reserve for a garnish while you cook the vegetables in the fat.  As you can imagine, the bacon fat contributes a nice, meaty richness. But if you’d rather skip the bacon step for some reason, I’ll bet you could use olive oil or butter. I should also mention that I forgot to use the bacon garnish and didn’t miss it, possibly because the bacon fat and ham bone were so flavorful.)  The beans wind up tender and creamy, and the broth is sweet and smoky and deeply hammy, but the best part might be the cabbage, which softens until it nearly melts.  I ate mine with a dash of hot sauce, because pork likes a little vinegary heat. If you find yourself with a ham bone, you know what to do.

P.S. Yesterday, Brandon and I shared a bunch of tips for making mashed potatoes over at Food52. Hop to it! And while you’re there, check out the other Thanksgiving tips, too, from Rose Levy Beranbaum, Adam Rapoport, and Andrew Knowlton. Pretty great.
P.P.S. If you need a Thanksgiving cocktail idea, how about, ahem, a Nardini Spritz?

Ham Bone, Greens, and Bean Soup
Adapted very slightly from Melissa Clark’s Cook This Now

What makes this soup different from one that uses, say, ham hocks, is that the marrow in the ham bone melts into the soup, bringing extra richness and body. So if you have a ham bone, use it! You will be rewarded. If not, a ham hock will also be good. My ham bone fit easily into the pot I used, but Melissa Clark suggests that, in general, you ask your butcher to cut it in half or thirds for you, so that it’s guaranteed to fit and also has some marrow exposed.

As for beans, you could probably use any light-colored bean you like. I had a bag of Rancho Gordo’s yellow eye beans in the cupboard, so I used those. (Rancho Gordo beans make a great holiday present, by the way.)  Also, I find that adding a little salt when I soak dried beans makes them turn out better when I cook them, and here’s a video from America’s Test Kitchen that explains why.  I don’t tend to use the full amount of salt that’s called for in the video, but I have, and it worked beautifully.  (I don’t use that much because I tend to forget to rinse the beans after soaking, and then I wind up with salty beans. Using less salt still seems to help, and then there’s no need to rinse.)

1 cup (175 grams) dried pinto beans, or another bean you like
4 strips bacon, cut into ½-inch pieces
3 large carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 large yellow onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 ham bone (about 1 ¼ lb. / 565 grams)
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons kosher salt, or to taste
½ head (about ¾ lb. / 340 grams) green cabbage, cored and thinly sliced
1 bunch kale (about ½ lb. / 225 grams), stems removed and leaves chopped into bite-size pieces
Freshly ground black pepper, for serving
Hot sauce, for serving

Twelve to 24 hours before you plan to start the soup, put the beans in a bowl and cover with plenty of cold water. Add a generous pinch of salt. Set aside at room temperature. (Or, if you don’t have that much time, you can instead use a quick-soak method: put the beans, lots of cold water, and a generous pinch of salt in a pot, bring it to a boil, turn off the heat, cover the pot, and let stand for 1 hour. Drain, and then proceed with the recipe.)

Warm a large (about 5-quart) pot over medium-high heat. Add the bacon, and cook until crisp, about 5 to 7 minutes. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon to a paper towel-lined plate, and save for garnishing the soup. Add the carrots, celery, and onion to the bacon fat in the pan. Cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, and cook for 1 minute more.

Put the ham bone and bay leaf into the pot, and add 8 cups water and 2 teaspoons kosher salt. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat; then add the beans, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer for 30 minutes. Stir in the cabbage and simmer for 30 minutes more. At this point, fish out a bean and taste it: it should be nearly done. If it’s still pretty firm, let the soup simmer a bit longer before continuing. Then stir in the kale and simmer until the kale is soft but still bright green, about 15 minutes. Remove the ham bone and bay leaf. If you’d like, you can pull the meat from the ham bone, chop it up, and stir it back into the soup.

Serve with freshly ground black pepper and a dash of hot sauce, and more salt, if needed. (Oh, and crumbled bacon, if you want.)

Yield: 6 to 8 servings


Anonymous molly said...

1) I am never, ever bored, talking about soup. 2) I could watch June dance till the cows come home. 3) Number (1) probably indicates I should get, like, a life? 4) The Christmas ham bone's SO spoken for.

Happy (Swaying and Grunting) Thanksgiving, you three :)


10:08 AM, November 22, 2013  
Anonymous Molly said...

Melissa Clark, man. I love her writing as much as I love her recipes. It sounds like her words cast the same sort of spell on me as they do to you. Just so amazing.

10:58 AM, November 22, 2013  
Blogger Lucinda Smith said...

a happy baby swaying to the tune of her taste buds... <3!


11:30 AM, November 22, 2013  
Blogger Vittoria said...

I bought a pork shoulder yesterday to make these http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2011/11/homesick-texan-carnitas/ and accidentally bought a bone in shoulder. I was just googling soup recipes earlier to use it up and came away disappointed...and then you magically came to my rescue!Thank you!

11:48 AM, November 22, 2013  
Blogger Sian said...

Cook This Now is my go-to cookbook, especially when I need help with cooking seasonally. The Fragrant Lentil Rice Soup with Spinach and Crispy Onions is beyond delicious, even without the Crisply Onions. Nothing I've cooked from the book has been less than a winner.

11:52 AM, November 22, 2013  
Blogger Bridget Blair said...

Well I haven't got a ham bone in my house ...but I will be going to my local butchers and demanding one very shortly.

Molly, this recipe is screaming out to me ....make me...and even though I haven't got an adorable little one to dance while eating this, I don't care! I want to make it now, and eat it even sooner.
Especially with this cold damp weather over in the UK at the moment

12:04 PM, November 22, 2013  
Blogger Zoomie said...

That would be "gruntin' 'n' swayin' in country music talk.

1:54 PM, November 22, 2013  
Blogger Payal Shah said...

I couldn't agree more about Melissa Clark. There is something about her and every recipe she writes. I want to make and eat everything that she suggests. And it is the same with you and your blog! I just finished making those Butter Cookies which you wrote about awhile ago. I think those cookies won me over. They are just as melt-in-your-mouth tender and that disguisingly delicious as you had described it to be!

3:54 PM, November 22, 2013  
Blogger Margarita Larrazabal said...

You are quite bewitching yourself! So many recipes I've made from here because you just convince me!

11:21 PM, November 22, 2013  
Anonymous Amy said...

The Ham Bone, Greens, and Bean Soup makes me DROOL. So creamy and comforting. I could eat soup every day. And sometimes I do! This soup recipe is so delicious, even the pickiest eaters will gobble it up.

3:54 AM, November 23, 2013  
Anonymous Beth said...

I love soup as well. It is so comforting and allows you to use up bits of this or that, many times creating a new soup. I just ran across your blog and will become a regular reader. I have just recently started my own blog,
come visit me soon :)

4:12 AM, November 23, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know what you mean about Melissa Clark. I cherish her recipe for Pumpkin Bread with Brown Butter and Bourbon found on her blog. Only I substituted Bananas and Dark Rum and it turned out fabulous -- my friends and family raved about it for days and said it was the best bread they'd ever eaten. I posted a comment about the change on Melissa's blog and she loved the idea and said she had bananas ripening on her kitchen cabinet to try it! I understand she is writing for the NYT now....

4:44 AM, November 23, 2013  
Anonymous Victoria said...

You did give us Benton's Ham and split pea soup, so this sounds like one to try pretty quick since the temperature is about to drop into the 20's.

I can't complain - it's been the warmest fall on record, and there will be this soup to try.

The Nardini Spritz is my new go-to aperitif if I'm not going whole hog and drinking Gabrielle Hamilton's Negroni. I wasn't so crazy about the one with Aperol because I kind of think Aperol is Campari for sissies. But Amaro Nardini and Averna are now always in my cabinet. Thanks, thanks, thanks.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all. xoxo

10:17 AM, November 23, 2013  
Blogger pvl said...

So, on the topic of salting the bean soaking water ...

This confuses me a bit, I wonder if you would consider the science, and then wonder out loud why you've had success with it?

My understanding - 2nd hand, but from reliable "sciency" food writers, is that when you salt the bean soaking liquid, the salt gets in the bean and then causes the bean to repel water - which has explained a period of time when EVERY SINGLE time I tried to make black bean-something-or-other the little buggers came out hard, no matter how long they soaked or cooked.

Since stopping the salting practice, I've not had this issue.

But apparently this has not been your experience?

Discuss ...


10:41 AM, November 23, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I made this soup today, and it is oh so lovely and warm and delicious. And my house smells so good now. Thank you. A perfect recipe for a cold November Saturday-


11:07 AM, November 23, 2013  
Anonymous Lorrie said...

New Year's Day, my baby turns 22. He's 6'5" and no longer uses a high chair to dance over his food. There is always ham for that day, and there will be this soup after it's done! Thanks!

5:05 PM, November 23, 2013  
Blogger Liza said...

Do you think if I dig under my frozen bananas I might find a ham bone?

6:56 PM, November 23, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My son's first two words were "More" and "Mine." More, as in, "I want more food than this measly amount you put on my highchair tray." And mine as in, point at Mommy's larger plate of food and claim it as your own. He gleefully ate everything in sight (alas, without a charming dance), until the day he turned two, at which point he systematically crossed everything off his favorite foods list and has remained a whiny, picky eater to this day, some twenty years later.
I suggest you make a short video of the highchair dance, for memories' sake. Revel in DS' compliments, and hope they continue.
I'd do a dance for this soup; it sounds delightful.

7:13 PM, November 23, 2013  
Blogger Marisa Miller said...

I did one this week with escarole and my husband and I wondered why ham marrow isn't a thing.

7:35 PM, November 23, 2013  
Blogger Molly said...

pvl, that's a good question! I've heard from many sources over the years that salting beans makes them tough, but I've not found it to be true, and America's Test Kitchen (the people who produce the magazine Cook's Illustrated) made a great video that explains their findings on the matter. I've added a link to the video and some of my own thoughts in the recipe headnotes above.

9:44 PM, November 23, 2013  
Anonymous Carlinne @Cook with 2 Chicks said...

I would never bore of talking about soup. Happy Thanksgiving!

4:19 AM, November 24, 2013  
Blogger Poupette said...

I just discovered your blog while I was searching for light reading on sauce gribiche. What a godsend :)
I'll be coming back. A lot!
Steph (poupetteinthekitchen)

11:36 AM, November 24, 2013  
Anonymous Rei said...

I read this post as my husband was picking up some pork at a local farm, so I immediately called him asking for ham bones, too! Now, we have a question. Apparently, a lady at the farm said that she recommends roasting the bones before adding to soup - she thought her soup tasted rather funky when she didn't. Any thoughts?

3:37 PM, November 24, 2013  
Anonymous Marian at Apricot Tart said...

Oh, my! I can't wait for winter to return next year so that I can make this soup! It sounds amazing! I'll be saving the bone from our Christmas ham for this one! Thanks for sharing!

4:22 PM, November 24, 2013  
Blogger Meg said...

Alas, I did not have a hambone in my freezer (used it up for lentil soup, yum yum). BUT I did have some slab bacon, and some frozen cooked shell beans from the garden and some ditto kale because it's what we eat all winter, and some of the last sweet post-frost harvested carrots.... so thanks to your post, a bunch of Vermonters who are not-so-revelling in sub-zero wind chill for the first time had a yummy, warming, creamy, delicious dinner. And the youngest member of our family (2) shoveled it in with glee and asked for more. Twice! Thanks for the inspiration!
(PS I added some par-cooked farro near the end and that added some good rib-sticking grainy goodness).

4:34 PM, November 24, 2013  
Anonymous Kate in New York said...

This reminds me so much of a soup my Spanish grandmother used to make, with ham, kidney beans and kale. I loved it. She also would make a variation where she rendered the fat from cured chorizo, which added some spice. In any case, I will never grow bored of soup and am glad to see I'm not alone. Happy Thanksgiving.

4:35 PM, November 24, 2013  
Blogger Molly said...

Rei, that's so interesting! I would have never thought about it. My ham bone was roasted, actually - I had roasted the ham, and then we ate it, and I saved the bone.

8:30 PM, November 24, 2013  
Blogger - a said...

This sounds amazing! I used to be able to click on the title of your posts, be taken to the post's own page and then bookmark that post/recipe into a folder for recipes and such. I've noticed lately that the option to click on a particular post is gone. Was that done on purpose or can we resurrect that function one again?
Thank you,

8:41 AM, November 25, 2013  
Blogger Ashley said...

I love Cook this Now and have to agree, Melissa Clark makes every recipe sound incredible (and easy to do!). Thanks to her, I've tried many new recipes that have become favorites (her shrimp scampi, or roasted broccoli or cauliflower...yes!). Thanks for your twist!

10:01 AM, November 25, 2013  
OpenID nounsacredplaces said...

I love that cookbook, everything I have made out of it has become and instant favorite. Will now did it out as the dairy I volunteer with has ham hock available right now.

4:39 PM, November 25, 2013  
Anonymous Rei said...

Thank you, Molly, that makes senses - I guess that's what happens when one rushes to a pig farm instead of a butcher!!! I'll roast the bones we got this time and see if it works with this recipe :)

6:59 PM, November 25, 2013  
Anonymous Paleo said...

I love soup and this one looks great. Sometimes the simpler, the better.

7:14 PM, November 25, 2013  
Blogger Lynn said...

- a: I think you'll find that you can get to the permanent link by clicking on the time of the post, at the very bottom. :-)

Molly: Is a ham bone smoked, or is it just a pork bone? I have to navigate a Dutch butcher. :-)

1:37 PM, November 26, 2013  
Blogger Ochin Pakhi said...

I made this soup today, and it is oh so lovely and warm and delicious

9:28 PM, November 26, 2013  
Anonymous Kasey said...

Oh I am glad you are not talking about cranberries. Though, I do appreciate the cocktail recommendations and mashed potato tips ;) I hope you guys have a wonderful holiday! x

2:29 PM, November 27, 2013  
Blogger Unknown said...

Molly, I'm writing because I'm about to go to my 5th straight Thanksgiving at my best friend's house with the ingredients for your Butternut Squash (Kale) and cheddar Bread pudding. My fabulous cousin forwarded your recipe knowing it would perfectly fit our need -- what do you bring a vegetarian who is serving turkey to 35? This hit the spot - tangy and pretty and comforty. I will always want to go to my friend's for thanksgiving, and even if she weren't drawing up the guest list, the other vegetarians would insist I get to come with your dish. I hope you get satisfaction that it appears to do what you set out to create "something that could command the center of the table."

1:25 AM, November 28, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I made this soup the other day--I've always been a bit skeptical of cabbage-in-soup for some reason, but this soup brought me to the light. You are right! It gets so creamy and delicious. I added potatoes and a can of crushed tomatoes, too, and it was fantastic!

9:07 AM, December 01, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A million years ago before my second baby I saved your peppermint bark recipe from over at SouleMama (before her FIFTH baby). Tonight I scrolled through my food links, sick as a dog, while my husband has both kids at the grocery store. Who is this Orangette person? I read some posts. I am so glad you have a baby. I am so glad you ate a ball of cookie dough from the walkin because it made me laugh out loud, and today I needed that. I can tell you are keeping balls in the air that I could not, with some grace too, so I'm putting you in the category of my girlfriend Marlies who became a real artist after her first kid three years and two babies ago and is always cheery and amazing. I like this story you're weaving!

7:08 PM, December 01, 2013  
Anonymous Jeff @ Cheese-burger.net said...

A day like yours will come soon, maybe after the holidays, and I will find the desire for ham bone, greens, and bean soup.

9:32 PM, December 01, 2013  
Blogger Axellent said...

Hi Molly, I am bored at work right now considering what my dinner should be tonight. Guess I found it on your blog!
Some hot soup is perfect for the incoming winter days :-)


6:30 AM, December 02, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


This soup sounds so delicious - perfect for a cold, early winter weekend! Your photos are lovely! What kind of camera did you get?

6:35 AM, December 07, 2013  
Blogger sarah bagley said...

I was wondering, Molly (or anyone who has made this), about how much bacon fat renders from the 4 strips of bacon? I keep a jar of bacon fat in my fridge, and I figured I might as well just use it for this, but I'm not sure how much I should use. A tablespoon, maybe?

12:13 PM, December 12, 2013  
Blogger Molly said...

Sarah Bagley, I'd suggest that you start with a tablespoon and see how it looks! Go for it.

1:57 PM, December 12, 2013  

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