Ham and Lima Bean Soup

Ham bones (with meat on them – leftover from a bone-in ham roast)
1 C lima beans (soaked overnight)
3 medium carrots
2 large parsnips
1/2 C apple cider (or apple juice)
1/4 C dry white wine
1 T fresh thyme leaves (4-5 large sprigs)
1/2 T fresh marjoram leaves (2 large sprigs)
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Place the ham bones & ham in 1.5 – 2 quarts cold water. This allows the flavour of the ham to go into the broth, which wouldn’t happen if you started with warm or hot water. Simmer on medium-low for an hour or two until the meat has mostly come off the bones. Now add in the carrots and parsnip which you have cut into 1/4 inch slices on a bias. Also add in the thyme and marjoram. You can either strip the leaves off, or just put the herbs in, stems and all. While the soup simmers, the leaves will come off the stems and you can take them out when you’re ready to serve it. At this time, also add in the pre-soaked beans, cider and wine, as well as the ground pepper. Simmer all ingredients together for at least an hour, until the vegetables are tender, and have released their flavour into the broth, the herbs have mingled with the other ingredients, and the beans are soft.

Remove the bones, stripping any meat off of them, and fish out any gristle or other connective tissue that has made its way into the soup from the bones. Because you’ve used bones to flavour this soup, it may get somewhat gelatinous when cold, but this isn’t because of the fat content, but the gelatin which has been extracted from the bones. Trust me, it will taste amazing, and will be totally liquid when warm or hot.

The cider gives a subtle sweetness and along with the wine, brings nice background body to the broth. The sweetness of the carrots and parsnips balance well against the saltiness of the ham. I don’t add any salt to this, but depending on the saltiness of your ham, and your personal tastes, you might want to lightly salt it right before serving. But remember that the end product will be saltier than earlier in the cooking as more and more salt gets extracted from the ham and into the broth and as the broth cooks down.