Thursday, February 19, 2009

Penny Pinchers Navy Bean Soup

The U.S. recession is putting a severe economic pressure on every household. As in the past, when hard times, a cheap meal looks very appealing and nothing is better for a budget than a comforting bowl of homemade soup!

To make a frugal soup from leftovers, start with making a flavorful stock as the base. Smoked pork neck bones are often used to add a robust flavor to beans, and they are very cheap, too. Unlike ham hocks, another popular choice, this meat doesn't have a great deal of waste, and there's much less fat, and no useless rind of pigskin. Smoked pork neck bones have loads more meat, and plenty of bone and connective tissue, the key elements to making a rich tasting soup.

Inexpensive ingredients like onions, garlic, peppers and cilantro add taste and aroma, and the scent of rosemary and thyme fills the air. Dried beans will go a long way to stretch your food budget, and the yield is incredible so I'm only using 1 cup for my cheap soup.

I've added only enough water to cover most of the ingredients without totally drowning everything. In this case I used a little more the 2 quarts which gave me about 18 cups of soup.

My smoked neck bones cooked for 35 minutes plus the natural release which will finished the cooking and give me meat that is just about falling off the bone. I'll set them aside to cool a bit so I can pick all the meat off.

Now I'm going to add the Navy beans. These are one of the most popular of dried beans because they are so creamy tasting. I've picked through these beans and they soaked for four hours. Into the pressure cooker they go, and they should be covered by at least 2 inches of that meaty broth for a good soup. Add more liquid if needed. Back under pressure for 12 minutes they go, and I'm using the natural release so the skins don't split.

While the beans are cooking, the meat is cool enough to handle. Its easy to pull off most of the meat with a fork. Use your fingers to get every delectable morsel for the soup. The penny pincher trick I learned from my grandma was to chop most of the meat into very small bits and shreds, but also leave a few large pieces so it fools the eye into seeing just the bigger chunks. I ended up with slightly less than 2 cups of meat.

When the beans are done, they are so tender that you should be able to mash one in your fingers. Now I'm going to use a hand blender to partially puree the broth and some of the beans. The starch from inside the beans will thicken the soup and give in a creamier, richer texture. You can also do this in a food processor or blender, but take care not to over do it. I'm careful to leave a fair amount bigger veggie pieces, and some whole beans to add more substance to my frugal soup. Finally, add the chopped meat back into the soup and heat through.
All done and my cheap eats meal is a winner.

The soup is well seasoned and flavored with the taste of garlic and onions and just a hint of lingering heat from the cilantro and peppers. Its thick and rich with tons of little bits of tender, smoky meat and aromatic herbs and vegetables... the aroma from the rosemary and thyme is wonderful!


Smoked Pork - 1.34
Cilantro - .15
Onion - .25
Garlic -.20
Chilies - .55
Dried Beans - .50
Spices - .40
Total = $3.39 or 18¢ per cup

See that? A delicious, nutritious, made from scratch, meaty, thick, rich, flavorful and aromatic soup for just 18¢ per cup! If you're watching your pennies, try this soup for a great tasting meal.

Penny Pinchers Navy Bean Soup

1 cup dried navy beans, sorted and soaked a minimum 4 hours

Step One: The Meat Broth
1/2 lb. smoked pork neck bones
1 large onion, chopped
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 mild chili (Anaheim, pasilla, poblano) pepper, seeded and chopped
1 jalapeño chili pepper, seeded and chopped
1/2 bunch cilantro, stems and leaves, chopped
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried rosemary

Place everything except the beans in the pressure cooker. Add just enough water to almost cover the ingredients. Lock the lid in place. Bring to 15psi over high heat, immediately reduce the heat to the lowest possible setting to stabilize and maintain that pressure. Cook 35 minutes. Remove from heat and use the natural release method before opening the lid. Check for doneness; all smoked meats start out very dry and tough, but when cooked properly the meat should be fork-tender and easily pull away from the bone. If needed return to pressure for an additional 5 minutes. Discard the bay leaves. Remove the meat and set aside to cool.

Step Two: The Soup
Rinse the beans and discard the soaking water. Add the beans to the broth. Lock the lid in place. Bring to 15psi over high heat, immediately reduce the heat to the lowest possible setting to stabilize and maintain that pressure. Cook 12 minutes. Remove from heat and use the natural release method before opening the lid. Check for doneness, a bean should soft enough to mash between your thumb and forefinger. If needed return to pressure for an additional 2 minutes. Use a hand blender to partially purée the beans and broth, leaving some beans whole.

Meanwhile, debone the meat, discarding any little pieces of gristle, veins or fat. Chop the meat into small pieces. Return the meat to the beans and broth. Season to taste. Simmer gently over a medium-low heat until heated through. Serve with a hunk of bakery bread or a pan of cornbread.

This soup freezes well.

Does this "Penny Pincher" recipe appeal to you, would you like to see more recipes like this?

If you make my Penny Pinchers Navy Bean Soup let me know about your experience.


belldujour said...

This is cheap comfort food! I love the variety of homemade soups, and especially these days when everyone is trying to be more frugal. I actually have the ingredients to make this recipe for dinner, and on a cold wet day like this, what could be better than hot soup. Thanks Miss V... more recipes, please!

Anonymous said...

I love navy beans, they are so useful in many recipes; and very good value considering how inexpensive they are for the protein. I have looked at smoked neck bones before, but never knew what to do with them. My family always used ham bones or just bacon, so I have added them to my shopping list and I can't wait to try this recipe. Thank you for the step-by-step pictures, they really help explain the procedure.

Kathy said...

Yes! would love more frugal recipes like these. My food budget seems to be shrinking.
This soups sounds really good - even if it is hot outside.

The Dalai Farmer said...

Just what I was looking for! With my new electric pressure cooker I thought beans would be quick and easy and - Lo, and behold - they are! This soup is like a magic trick, it takes cheap as chips ingredients and makes them into gourmet food. I love it!

Jeff said...

Made it. Loved it. Making it again. This was a wonderful tasting soup and a great way to use up an old ham bone. Not sure where to find smoked neck bones, but I will be on the look out. Thanks and
please post more just like it!!!

missvickie said...

Leftover ham bones are wonderful, but not always available. Smoked meats provide an excellent alternative and your local supermarket will stock several varieties that are specifically useful in soups. Pork neck bones are grouped with other types of cured meats like ham hocks, pigs feet, and turkey wings and legs. You can also use any of the smoked sausages like kielbasa or Andouille.

Good2bFit said...

This is really wonderful soup! My whole family liked it, which is saying something! A great flavor, inexpensive, and definitely something warm for a cold winter night. Thank you for all your wonderful recipes!

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