On Easter, we had the ham from the local hog we recently bought. It was quite tasty and since it was a whopping 18 pounds, we have lots of leftover ham in both the freezer and fridge. As we always do when we have a ham bone, I made our family’s Bean & Hominy Soup. I used dry navy beans and canned hominy this time, but since I got the recipe from my mom and she always uses canned beans, I am giving the recipe using those. Of course, you can use dried hominy and beans, instead of canned, if you prefer. It will be both cheaper and healthier to make that way.
This is the navy bean soup that my family makes. It is a recipe that my Mom got from her Mom and is a dish that they used to make in Key West, Florida. My grandparents were Key West “Conchs”, meaning they were born and raised in Key West. I guess that this recipe came over to Key West from the Bahamas (or maybe Cuba?) along with the immigrants from there in the late 1800’s. I’ll call it “Ida’s Key West Bean & Hominy Soup” after my grandmother.
But, I will note that while my mom has always made it with hominy, recently she did she reveal that when she was a young child (late 1930’s) her Mom, Ida, made it with dried white “cracked corn”. Later, as it became easier to find hominy and more difficult to find food-grade cracked corn for human consumption (it is used today in chicken feed), they switched to hominy.
Wikipedia states about hominy that “Soaking the corn in lye kills the seed’s germ, which keeps it from sprouting while in storage. In addition to preserving the grain as foodstuff, this process also affords several significant nutritional advantages over untreated maize products. It converts some of the niacin (and possibly other B vitamins) into a form more absorbable by the body, improves the availability of the amino acids, and (at least in the lime-treated variant) supplements the calcium content, balancing maize’s comparative excess of phosphorus.”
It’s great with hominy, but I guess the cracked corn is more authentic. Also, we always used white hominy, but this time I used half white and half yellow and it still looked and tasted fine. Feel free to adjust the hominy to bean ratio to your tastes, but there must be some hominy in it. Sadly, there is no vegetarian version of this, since the ham bone and attached ham is what give it most of the flavor.
Ida’s Key West Bean & Hominy Soup
- 1 ham bone (with some ham left on it)
- 4 cans Navy beans, 15 oz. size cans (you can use Northern beans, but it’s not quite the same)
- 2 cans white hominy, 15.5 oz. size cans (hominy is lye-soaked corn, yellow will do if you can’t get white)
- 1 medium white or yellow onion, chopped
- salt and pepper to taste
- Old Sour, for adding at the table (optional)
- Simmer the ham bone in water until the meat drops off and the water makes a rich broth. I use my crock-pot and cook it on low overnight.
- Remove the bone and cut up any larger chunks of meat to small bite-size pieces. Drain and rinse the beans and hominy and put the chopped onion in the broth/meat in a pot along with the hominy and beans. Add additional water if necessary, as the final product should have the consistency of a stew when finished.
- Cook on low heat (or in a crock pot) for several hours, until the beans and hominy have softened a little and made a saucy-broth. Add salt and black pepper to taste. At the table, you can add “old sour” to taste.
“Old Sour” is Key Lime Juice that has salt added to it, and is then left to sit and sour/ferment for a while. I think that its use goes back to the seafaring heritage of many Key West and Bahamian folks, as the preserved lime juice is a good source of vitamin C when you are out at sea. That is why “limey” is a slang term for a sailor.
I found this recipe on a Key West web site, in case you can’t find it ready-made. By the way, my Mom doesn’t use peppers in hers, just lime juice and salt. Old Sour is a very old Key West tradition and Conchs use on it just about everything.
- 2 cups Key Lime juice or Persian Lime juice
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 2 Bird Peppers or a few drops of hot sauce, optional
- Strain the lime juice through cheesecloth three or four times to make sure to remove all pulp.
- Mix lime juice and salt together. Pour into bottles with Bird Peppers. Cork.
- Refrigerate two weeks or more before using, the longer the better. Store in refrigerator three to six months.
Serve the bean soup with buttered Cuban bread, or French or Italian if you aren’t lucky enough to live in a town like Tampa were you can get Cuban bread. A salad goes well with it and gives you something green.
The girls really like this soup and at their request have taken it for lunch in their thermoses the last two days.