Friday, December 18, 2015

Navy Bean Soup

I wrote this post in 2009.  It was really popular for a while, with visitors every day searching for a Navy Bean Soup recipe.  I re-posted it for Holidailies in memory of my Mom quite a few years in a row.  It's been a while, so I thought it was time for a re-visit!


One of the things my Mom made often in the winter was bean soup. It was always after Christmas or Easter, the only two holidays we baked a ham. I think on a rare occasion my Mom baked a ham for Sunday dinner just so she could have it to make the soup afterwards! Clint baked a ham at Christmas and put the bone and leftovers in the freezer. He got it out today and decided to make bean soup. I haven't tasted it, so who knows if it's as good as Mom's.

(shhh -- but probably not!)

Anyway, it reminded me of a story to share:

Does everybody know who Chef John Folse is? I'm sure all my cooking friends do!!

Well, many years ago John Folse visited Morgan City for a cooking demonstration. Everyone was asked to bring a family recipe and the story behind it to enter into a drawing. My Mom loved John Folse and watched his show faithfully. Of course she went. I don't remember where I was. I must have aerobics or some other plans... I didn't go with her. My Mom wrote down her Navy Bean Soup recipe. It was something my Grandma made often and passed down. There was no real "recipe", since it was something they just threw together.

Anyway, the recipes were all put into a box and at some point, John Folse reached in the box and pulled out a recipe. Right away, my mom recognized her piece of paper!! Yes, he pulled her recipe. She couldn't believe it. I don't remember the details if she got to go up and meet him or what. I think she got a gift basket.

But, since her recipe was picked, it was going to be published in John Folse's next cookbook. And my Mom was going to get a free copy when it became available. Months later, sure enough, she got her cookbook in the mail. And sure enough, there was her recipe. Of course they embellished her story a bit so it sounded more 'cajun' (haha!) but her name and recipe are published. We were so excited.

Then... years later.... she got a call from John Folse's cooking show. They wanted her to prepare her soup ON his show! They would tape an episode in her kitchen, with John Folse himself. And my Mom, being who she was, turned them down!! I think they called at least twice. She said there was no way she'd let anyone show her rinky dink junky kitchen on TV!! Can you believe it... she said no!! I wish she would have done it.

But anyway, the cookbook is somewhere at my Dad's house. It's a nice piece of family history. If I can get my hands on it, I will scan and post the pages with my Mom's recipe. I was able to find the index page on Amazon:

Navy Bean Soup - Joyce B. Russell

Navy Bean Soup
1 pound dried navy beans
1 cup chopped onions
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 cup diced tomatoes
1 cup diced potatoes
1 cup chopped cabbage
1/2 cup elbow macaroni
2 cups diced ham
1/2 cup sliced green onions
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 tsp. salt
black pepper
hot sauce (optional)

Method: Rinse the beans under cold running water. You may wish to soak the beans in cold water overnight to cut the cooking time by one-third. Place beans in a large cast iron dutch oven and cover by two inches with cold water. Bring to a rolling boil, and reduce heat to simmer. Cook approximately one hour or until beans are tender, stirring occasionally. Add onions, celery, tomatoes, potatoes, cabbage, macaroni and ham. Blend well into the bean mixture and cook 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. You may need to add water to retain desired consistency. Add green onions and parsley. Season to taste using salt, pepper and hot sauce.

Note: When stirring beans during the cooking process, mash approximately 50% of the beans, pressing with the cooking spoon against the inside of the pot. This will give the navy bean soup a creamy consistency.

My Mom's (embellished!) story behind the recipe:

"Since my grandmother and mother were unable to read or write, recipes would have been of little use to them. So they cooked the way people before them had cooked, back to the dawn of time, I suppose. They cooked from memory. When you think about it, that's really quite a skill. You have to remember every ingredient of a recipe and how the end product tastes. It also means keeping a mental catalog of herbs and spices and their effects on flavors so accurate that you can add the proper amount without resorting to measuring spoons or cups. Of course, after a while everyone learns to cook their favorite dishes from memory - as I do this one. But imagine having to do it every time! This, by the way, is the 'special' version of mom's soup - the one she fixed as a treat when we had leftover ham. In the everyday version, she used salt meat."

Joyce B. Russell
Morgan City, Louisiana

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1 comment:

  1. I am so glad you reposted this! What a delightful story!
    The soup sounds yummy!