Spicy Bean and Ham Soup

This is a wonderful recipe from my friend Ann.  Serve on a cold day with some home-baked bread and butter, and a nice tossed side salad.


1 ham shank with bone, smoked, and cut by butcher on a bone saw into four equal pieces (I use Clem Becker brand)
2 quarts water (8 cups)
2 cups assorted dry soup beans
2 large 28 oz. cans stewed tomatoes
1 huge spanish onion, diced
2 large cloves garlic, roasted and minced*
Juice of one fresh lemon
1 tbs. pure chimayo chili powder
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tbs. dried mexican oregano
2 ribs celery, diced
2 potatoes with skins on, scrubbed and cut into 1/2″ cubes
3 carrots, skinned and chopped
1 green bell pepper, fine chopped
1 cup frozen peas
1/4 tsp. cayenne powder or dash tabasco sauce to taste
Salt and pepper to taste

Garnish with chopped scallion.


Wash beans, cover with cold water and soak overnight with two tbs. salt. The next day, rinse the ham shank quarters under cold water and add to a heavy 6-quart stock pot with 2 quarts fresh water. Cover, heat to boiling, then reduce heat and simmer for three hours. Pull bones from meat and discard. Place meat on cutting board, trim excess fat, shred into smaller chunks with two forks and add back to pot. Bring back to slow simmer, uncovered, and add the tomatoes, garlic, onion, celery, lemon juice, spices and chili powder.

Drain the beans and add to the stock pot during the third hour; they should be simmered for no more than two hours or they will be overcooked. (They may be done in under 1.5 hours.)

Simmer one additional hour. You may need to add a bit more water to compensate for evaporation. Skim fat off top of pot and discard. During this time, add the remainder of ingredients, noting to add the potatoes and carrots after 1/2 hour, and the bell pepper and peas during the last ten minutes.

Use the cayenne powder to control the heat, and the chili powder as a flavor base. The smoked ham is quite salty, so taste often before you add more salt. At the most, I add one teaspoon, but everyone is different.

*To roast garlic cloves, place cloves with husks in a heavy-bottom skillet and heat to medium, turning often. The husks will blacken slightly and give off a wonderful aroma. Remove from heat, let cool on cutting board. Trim the hard tip off of each garlic clove and the garlic will pop right out when squeezed. Smash the garlic with the side of a butcher knife, mince and you’re all set.

Beans can be bought in pre-mixed packages containing navy, baby limas, black, split peas, lentils, great northern, garbanzo, anasazi, kidney and pinto. These are available in many supermarkets so you don’t have to mix them yourself.

This dish is wonderful left over and freezes well.
Serves 8 comfortably.


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