Cold weather is soup weather. And for a hearty winter soup, we like to use beans. They’re tasty, filling and inexpensive—especially if you start with the dried variety. For this beer, ham and bean soup, we used our favorite dried beans, Yellow Eye from Rancho Gordo. But really you use could any white beans. And if you want to take a shortcut you could even use canned beans and omit the step of soaking them overnight. They’re going to soak in beer, anyway, and that’s the important part.
Wheat beer works well for this recipe. It has a delicate flavor that melds easily with the other ingredients and adds an aromatic quality that no other beer can. It’s also not bitter, so the final product won’t be either.
For the meat, we use a little bait and switch. While the soup cooks we use smoked ham hocks, which add a layer of smoky flavor and some rich pork fat to the soup. Right as the soup finishes we cube up a thick-cut ham steak so we get perfect cubes of meat that still have all their delicious ham flavor.
Beer, Ham and Bean Soup
1 pound dry beans, soaked in water overnight, then drained
1 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 shallot, sliced
2 ham hocks
1 wedge parmesan cheese, shredded with the rind reserved
4 cups chicken stock
12 ounces wheat beer
1 cup water
Salt and pepper
1 pound ham, cubed
Fresh arugula, optional
Melt the butter in a small saute pan over low heat, then add the olive oil. Add the shallot and cook until it’s tender and translucent.
In a large stock pot or Dutch oven, combine the pre-soaked beans, ham hocks, parmesan rind, chicken stock, wheat beer and water. Bring to a slow boil and then reduce to a simmer. Add the shallots when they are finished softening and allow the soup to simmer for about 2 hours. Salt and pepper to taste, if necessary.
As the soup is finishing, add the cubed ham. Fill bowls with the soup and garnish with the shredded parmesan and freshly ground black pepper, and arugula if using.