Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow yesterday and we woke this morning to what weather forecasters are calling our eleventh snow “event” of the season, so it’s safe to say that winter isn’t going away anytime soon. At least we can settle in by a warm fire and enjoy the fruits of last fall’s harvest of borlotti beans in a simple, warming soup.
Borlotti beans are an Italian heirloom variety and a beautiful addition to the garden. Also known as cranberry and the very non-exotic sounding French horticultural beans, the inedible pods are off white in color with cranberry markings, resembling the crimson speckled beans they hold inside. Ours take center stage in the garden, climbing up and around the tall frame of an old outdoor shelter.
We harvest some fresh in the fall, but usually wait for the pods to dry out and turn brown so the beans can be stored for the winter. After the beans are harvested I shuck them from their pods and lay them on a tray, making sure not to crowd them. As they start to dry, I shake the tray to move the beans around. It may take several weeks for the beans to dry out completely. I store mine in clean quart sized canning jars in a cool pantry. Make certain they are dry before you store them. It takes only one bean that isn’t sufficiently dry to make the entire jar moldy,and your labor would be for nothing! You can substitute dried or canned canellini beans for the borlottis in this recipe.
To use the beans I soak the quantity I need overnight to cover with cool water. I have found that the dried beans almost triple in size, so if I need three cups, I would soak one cup. Sadly,the beans lose their speckles when cooked and turn a light beige color. The flavor does not disappoint however, Borlotti beans are creamy in texture with a delicious nutty flavor. They are good in stews, casseroles and this very simple soup made with fridge and pantry ingredients.
Borlotti Bean Soup
- 1 1/2 c dried Borlotti beans, picked over, soaked overnight, drained and rinsed
- 1 medium onion, about 1 1/2 cups, finely chopped
- 2 medium cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 4-6 slices Canadian bacon, finely chopped
- 1 quart bag, or the canned equivalent, chopped roasted tomatoes
- 1 quart of homemade chicken stock or low sodium chicken broth
- 1t dried oregano
- 1t dried thyme
- 5c roughly chopped kale
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- Water, as needed, to thin out soup.
- Soak dried beans in cool water to cover generously. Let sit overnight, at least eight hours, loosely covered. Drain and thoroughly rinse the beans.
- In a large heavy bottomed Dutch oven over medium high heat, heat 2T olive oil. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is tender, 4-6 minutes.
- Add Canadian bacon to the pan and cook until lightly browned, 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute.
- Add beans, chopped tomatoes, stock and dried herbs and bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat to a simmer with the lid slightly ajar and cook for 30 minutes.
- Add chopped kale to pot and cook an additional 20 minutes, or until kale is sufficiently wilted.
- If soup is too thick, thin out with more stock or water. Taste for seasoning and adjust with salt and pepper.
- You can serve immediately, but it even gets better the second day.