Sunday, July 10, 2011

Soup from the Bayou

Beautiful soup, so rich and green,

Waiting in a hot tureen!

Who for such dainties would not stoop?

Soup of the evening, beautiful soup!

Lewis Carroll—Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Soups have nourished people in almost every culture for longer than 10,000 years. Prior to the Bronze Age and the invention of something like a pot, ancient civilizations boiled meat in water, using as a ‘pot’ animal skins staked over fire. Others heated stones and then moved them from the fire into a hole filled with water, then adding meat, vegetables and grain.

The word ‘soup’ is derived from the German word sop, which originally referred not to the soup itself, but to the bread over which soup, broth or other liquid was poured. From sop came sup and suppe. Sup was another word for ‘eat’ and ‘supper’ denoted the meal…zuppa, sopa and shorpa, a variety of words offering insight into how important this hearty dish has been in our collective history.

With a big chunky hock left over from a fresh ham, letting it go to waste was out of the question, so I looked through The Encyclopedia of Cajun & Creole Cuisine for a good way to put the ham hock to use. Of course, the big cookbook offers a wide choice of soups, but I was looking for a recipe that uses white beans and ham, sure I would find something with those ingredients as a base. The answer was Cajun White Bean Soup. I was stopped for a moment by the inclusion of tasso in the list of ingredients, not sure I could find the real thing this far from south Louisiana. Tasso is a dried pork seasoned with cayenne pepper, garlic and salt and then heavily smoked. The word ‘tasso’ comes from the Spanish tasajo which is dried, cured beef. The Cajun pork version is a popular seasoning in South Louisiana. For my white bean soup I was forced to substitute country cured ham which is the closet thing to tasso at the local market.

So, here is a tried and true recipe for CAJUN WHITE BEAN SOUP pretty much guaranteed to please.


1 large package Great Northern Beans

2 pieces heavy smoked ham hocks ( 1 large ham hock will serve as well)

1 cup julienned tasso

¾ cup oil

2 cups diced onion

2 cups diced celery

1 cup diced bell pepper

¼ cup minced garlic

2 cups diced tomatoes

water as needed

1 bay leaf

salt and cracked black pepper to taste


The cookbook says to presoak dried beans overnight in cold water, but you will get the same result by placing the beans in a large pot with 10 cups of water; bringing it to a boil for 2-3 minutes; removing the pot from the stove and letting the beans stand covered for 1 hour. When the beans are ready, heat the oil in a 2-gallon soup pot, add the onion, celery, bell pepper, garlic and tomatoes. Sauté 3-5 minutes, or until the vegetables are wilted. Add ham hocks and tasso. Continue to sauté for an additional 5 minutes. Stir beans into vegetable mixture and sauté 2 minutes.

Pour in enough cold water to cover beans by 2 inches. Bring to a rolling boil, reduce to simmer and cook, stirring occasionally for approximately 1 hour. When the beans begin to get tender, mash them against the side of the pot to create creaminess. Season with bay leaf, salt and pepper. Continue simmering and stir-mashing the beans now and then. The soup is ready when it has reached a creamy consistency.

Adjust the seasoning and serve with warm French bread and a green salad.

Count on a preparation time of a little over two hours, and with the measurements here soup enough for ten or eleven people. A little bread and salad served with it makes a hearty and filling meal.

1 comment:

  1. Looks divine. Was it as tasty as it looked? I wondered if the Third Army was invited for dinner with the amount of soup you made. It will take you a long time to eat this much soup. Put in ziplock bags you'll have a hearty soup for dinner when the weather turns cooler.


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Oak Hill, Florida, United States
A longtime expat relearning the footwork of life in America