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Market Day Bean Soup

(Shared recipe submitted by Maggie Keeler.)

Makes about 20 servings

Maggie writes: "This is my version of the traditional French bean soup, made with vegetables, dried beans, and barley or pasta. Fifteen years ago when I first made my soup, I used as many kinds of dried beans as I could grow in my garden or find in the grocery store. Soon I had as many as 15 kinds of dried beans and peas in my soup, and I even packaged the fixings in bags for sale in my antiques booth. However, I ran into a problem with getting all the beans done at one time; because they were all different sizes and shapes, they required different cooking times. I solved the problem by using canned beans, but there are not as many varieties available in stores to use as with the dried beans grown at home, so the soup is not as interesting visually. However, it does still taste about the same and is much easier to make. I do, however, sometimes add dried split peas and lentils as they do not require pre-soaking and cook quicker than dried beans so work well with canned beans. It also makes a good potluck dish."

Ingredients

Presoak the barley for several hours or cover it with water in a saucepan, bring pan to a boil, and simmer it until barley is nearly done, about 30 minutes; set it aside.

If your chicken broth is homemade, skim any fat off the top if you want a low fat soup. Put the chicken broth in a large soup pot and turn it on low.

Open all of the bean cans, pour the contents into a colander to drain, and then rinse them with cold water to de-salt them. Put the beans in the soup pot and turn the heat up until the pot just barely begins to boil, then turn it back down to simmer.

Heat the oil in a heavy frying pan, and sweat the onion, garlic, celery and carrots. Add them to the soup pot.

Cook the smoked sausage or kielbasa according to the package directions, cool, and chop it. Add sausage to the pot, along with the bay leaves, and simmer the soup for about 2 hours, adding water as needed. Add the barley to the soup; simmer about 30 minutes more. Then, if the beans and barley are tender, add the dried or diced tomatoes, mushrooms, dry vegetable soup, celery leaves, herbs, and season it with salt and pepper; simmer at least 30 more minutes before serving.

Notes: Do not add salt or acid ingredients, like tomatoes, to beans while cooking until they are tender, because acid and salt will retard the cooking of the beans and can make them tough. I like my soups, especially this one, to be very thick and ingredient dense, so people sometimes wonder if it is a soup or stew. Serve it the way that you like it, either thick or thinner. It is good served with a loaf of whole grain bread and a green salad for a complete meal. Leftovers are even good served over whole wheat penne pasta as a stew. This soup is better if it can be made a day ahead of time, then reheated before serving. This allows the flavors to blend or as the French say, "to marry". I like to make it a day or two ahead in my large soup pot on the stove and then later reheat just what I need for a meal in one of my slow cookers. It also makes a good potluck dish prepared and served this way.

About Maggie: Maggie's e-mail address is Peterjane2@aol.com.

Additional recipes submitted by Maggie:
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