16 Bean Soup

It has been a particularly cold week in Indiana.  We got at least 7 inches of snow and I ended up closing the store yesterday, which was a bummer because I was expecting a lot of people that work during the week to stop in.  I made the hard decision to close the store, so we’ve had a big sale going on.  Time is running out… I have about two weeks left to sell everything, pack up and go.  As you’ve probably noticed, I haven’t done much cooking.  Unless you count the occasional coney dog and hamburger helper… ssshhh… don’t tell! lol
Today is Sunday and I’ve probably mentioned before that it calls for a real dinner… that’s how I grew up.  I wanted to make sure I cooked a real meal today.  This is the first time I’ve made 16 Bean Soup.  I have several other dishes planned for you this week.  I am excited to be cooking again!
I’m sure for most of you, ingredients like bay leaves are normal and not exotic.  This is my first time EVER using them.  My Mom was a fabulous cook, but some seasonings were never used.  I’ve been slowly adding new ones to my spice cabinet and I’m looking forward to using them.  Last year was the first time I used real garlic and not garlic salt or powder… I know, right?!  I’m 48 years old and heading into new culinary territory!
I hope you’ve had a wonderful weekend with your family.  Have you ever made this soup before?  If so, comment below and tell me how yours turned out.
1 16-oz bag 16 Bean Mix
1 large ham shank or pieces of ham (1.5 to 2 lbs)
6 cups chicken, pork or beef stock and water
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 bay leaves
1 tsp Cajun seasoning
freshly ground pepper
salt (with caution)
(Feel free to add carrots, celery, fresh seasonings such as thyme and parsley.)  I did not add these things as I was trying to keep it close to the way I make pinto beans.
1. SOAK THE BEANS:  Put beans in a pot with 3-4 cups of water and bring to a boil.  Boil 2 minutes, then cover, remove from heat, and let sit for an hour.  Drain and rinse. Beans will look gray  – that will cook out later.
2. LOAD POT OR SLOW COOKER  with beans and the ham.  Add the rest of the ingredients except salt.  Do not salt soup until cooking is done, since the ham is already salty. Use your judgment with thyme, parsley and pepper.
3. SLOW COOK on High for 4-5 hours, or on Low for 8-9 hours, until ham falls off the bone.
4. Remove bones (and bay leaves)
with a slotted spoon.  If soup is not thick, allow to cook for another hour with lid off.  Salt only after cooking is complete because the ham is salty already.
5. Serve with warm cornbread.
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