Today’s high was 88°F and it was dreadful. In an attempt to remind Mother Nature that it’s time to start cooling down, I made soup. She didn’t get the memo though and now I’m sweating and eating hot soup. That’s ok though, because this soup is delicious! Maybe save it for when it’s about 20°F cooler though…
First things first, let’s break down some of the key ingredients…
1) Ham. When you purchase your ham, choose smoked ham shanks or hocks. I used shanks for this recipe. The key here is that they’re precooked and smoked. This adds a TON of flavor to the soup for not a lot of money or time. I bought a package of ham shanks that was around 1.5 lbs.
2) Parsnips. Parsnips are the unsaturated sister of the common carrot. They are very similar in flavor. I found them to be a little sweeter and softer than carrots. If you can’t find parsnips, you can use all carrots. I highly recommend you track down parsnips though, because they’re delicious.
3) Smoked salt. What is this? Salt that has been smoked. It smells like a campfire. I’ve never seen this in a normal grocery store, but I’ve never looked too hard either. I saw it at a little specialty meat market and snagged it immediately. This recipe would still be good with out it, but just like with the parsnips, I highly recommend you track it down. A little goes a long way and it is so versatile — adding a great depth of flavor to just about anything. You could probably easily find it online too.
4) Broth. I used 1/2 mushroom and 1/2 vegetable for this recipe. I really wanted the ham to permeate the soup, so I didn’t want the competing flavors of chicken or beef broth.
Since I’m the only meat eater around here, I didn’t make a huge pot of soup — I made about 1/2 a stock pot full. I imagine I’ll get 4-5 bowls out of it. If you’re feeding a family, double everything for good measure.
Smoky Parsnip Ham & Beans
32 0z each Mushroom and Vegetable Broth
1.5 lbs Smoked Ham Shanks or Hocks
2 Bay Leaves
3-4 tbs Butter or Olive Oil
2 Carrots, peeled and diced
4 Parsnips, peeled and diced
1 Red Onion, peeled and diced
1 Clove Garlic, minced
2 cans White Beans, such as Cannellini or Navy, drained and rinsed
Lots of Ground Pepper
In a large stock pot, add the broth, ham shanks and bay leaves
Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cover with a lid
Allow to simmer for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally
While the ham and broth is simmering, heat a large pan over medium-high heat
Melt your butter and sprinkle in roughly 1/4 teaspoon of smoked salt
Once you can smell the smokiness, add the carrots only — since they’re not as soft as the parsnips and onions, they’ll take a little longer to cook
Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes
Add the parsnips, onions and garlic and another 1/4 teaspoon of smoked salt
Cover with a lid and let cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally
Once the vegetables have softened, remove from heat
Pull the ham shanks and bay leaves out of the broth — toss the bay leaves in the trash and place the ham shanks on a cutting board to cool
Add 1/2 of the vegetables and 1 can of the drained and rinsed beans into the stock pot
Using an immersion blender, blend until smooth
— This will help thicken the soup and really blend the flavors together. If you don’t have an immersion blender, pour the vegetables, beans and 2-3 cups of liquid in a blender. Blend, then pour back into the pot. Stir well.
Add in the rest of the vegetables and beans, bring to a simmer
Remove the bones from the ham shanks and cut into small pieces
Pick through the ham and toss away any really fatty pieces or cartilage
Add the ham into the pot
Add lots of freshly ground pepper
Stir well and let simmer for 10-15 minutes
Taste and adjust the seasoning as you desire. I added more ground pepper and about 1/2 teaspoon of normal salt
Serve! If you think about it (like I did not) make some cornbread to go along with it.