As a really picky eater when I was a child, Old Fashioned Bean Soup with Rye Bread (almost) was one meal my mother could always count on me eating. She made the best bean soup in the world and always served it with homemade bread. Mom made really good bread, but I don’t recall her making rye bread. I love rye bread and this is a not too heavy lighter rye bread that goes together really easily. I make it the day before I make the soup and refrigerate it after its first rise. Then it just has to be shaped, risen and baked so it is fresh with the soup.
It is necessary to use dry beans and not canned. The beans have to be soaked to soften them so it doesn’t take so long to cook. There are several ways to soak them. They can be covered with water, and the vinegar, which keeps gastric distress to a minimum and bring to a boil. Boil for 2 minutes, turn off the heat and let them sit for one hour, after which you make the soup. This results in a longer cooking time. A second method is the one I use. I put the dry beans in a pot and add about five or six inches of water. I do this before I go to bed and in the morning they have swelled immensely which shortens the cooking time almost in half. The beans on the left are dry and the ones on the right have been soaked overnight. You can see how much water they absorbed and how they swelled.
The Old Fashioned Bean Soup is really easy to make and by soaking the beans overnight you cut the cooking time from three hours to one and one half hours. I used to wait until I had a ham bone to make this but with just the two of us now, that doesn’t occur very often. I noticed one day that ham hocks or smoked shanks were available and reasonably priced. I used the smoked shank which adds a great flavor and then pulled the meat from the bones and added it to the soup.
The rye bread is just as easy. The liquids are mixed and added to the flours and salt. After it is beaten, it rises and at this point it can be refrigerated for finishing the next day. I was talking to my son, Dirk and he reminded me how much he liked the Russian Rye Bread, which is a darker, denser bread he used to have with this soup.
I was at work last week and someone mentioned bean soup. I hadn’t thought of it until then. I went straight to the store on the way home and picked up what I needed. Old Fashioned Bean Soup with Rye Bread was the perfect dinner while we watched ourselves being snowed in. It can be troublesome to cool soup fast enough to get it into the fridge. If you have a backyard full of snow, it’s a snap.
It’s also really good if you’re not snowed in!
1 package active dry yeast (not rapid rise)
1/4 cup water (90 to 100 degrees)
3 1/4 cups bread flour (454 grams or 1 pound)
1 1/2 cups rye flour, preferably stone ground (225 grams or 1/2 pound)
1 tablespoon caraway seeds
1 tablespoon salt
2 to 2 1/4 cups water
Dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Set aside.
Combine the flours, caraway seed and salt in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a dough hook if you have one. Combine the yeast with 2 cups of the water and pour into the flour mixture. Mix on low to combine, raise the speed to medium and beat 3 to 4 minutes to knead. The dough should be soft and sticky. Add more water if necessary. I take the dough and divided it up several times during the beating as the top never seems to get kneaded unless you do.
Spray a bowl at least twice the size of the dough and place the dough in it. Turn the dough over, cover the bowl, mark it with the time and let it rise in a warm place for about 1 1/2 hours.
To shape it, turn the dough out so the bottom is facing you. Shape it into an oval and with the heel of your hand make a deep indentation from top to bottom. Fold the dough in half along the indention, pinching the edges together. Turn the loaf over and finish shaping it into an oval. Cover it with a towel and let it rise until doubled, about an hour.
Old Fashioned Bean Soup
2 cups navy beans (454 grams or 1 pound)
1 teaspoon vinegar
Ham bone, ham hock or smoked shank
1 1/2 cups diced onion
2 cups diced celery
1 cup grated carrots
3 quarts water
1 large white potato, cut in 3/4 inch dice
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Wash the beans very well and pick over for shriveled ones or even rocks which I have found in the past. Cover with lots of water, add the vinegar and soak overnight. Drain well.
Add the potatoes, salt, pepper and thyme. Cook for another 20 to 25 minutes until the potatoes are tender. If there is meat on the bone, shred it while picking it off and add to the soup. Correct the salt. I was surprised that I added another teaspoon or two of salt to bring up the flavor. It will be very flat without it.
Yields: Approximately 4 quarts. The soup freezes well if you have leftovers.