Cabbage, White Bean, and Pork Soup

I put this in the “Planned Leftovers” category, but that’s not really true.  We had a large potluck at work the other day, and, knowing that I like to cook, my friend gifted me with the bones of 2 boston butts, AND about 6 cups of the cooking juices.

That is liquid gold, my friends!

That would have been so good mixed in with the pork that they served that day, but oh well, lucky me!

I made the salad for this potluck, and ended up with about 8 cups of shredded cabbage leftover.  I think if you look into any culture worldwide, you are going to find that there is a magic marriage between pork and cabbage.  I decided to go a european/german/austrian/french/italian route of adding some white beans to the mix.

Having the stock already made makes this a pretty easy dish to put together.  Having someone else just give this to you, is pretty awesome!

The toughest part of this soup was trying to decide which herbs and spices to use.  Herbes d’Provence? Thyme? Marjoram?  Bay leaves? Rosemary?  Caraway? Juniper? Garlic?  Five Spice?  Any of these would be good, depending on what your tastes are.  I decided to stick to marjoram, thyme and bay leaves, which give a nice enhancement to the existing flavors of the pork, cabbage and beans.

As for quantities, they are flexible, but here are the approximations of what I used.   Since that pork stock I received was so flavorful, a lot of meat isn’t really needed.  Besides that, they it all!!!  I did find a few pork chops in the freezer if, at the end, it seemed like it needed more meat, just to please the masses.

  • 4 to 6 cups leftover pan drippings, with or without the fat
  • 1 to 2 leftover pork  butt bones, preferably with a little meat left on them
  • Water to cover
  • 1 cup dried navy or cannellini beans
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup bell pepper, diced
  • salt and pepper

To pull the best flavor out of each, this soup is best done in steps.

Step One:  STOCK

  1. Yes, I know, I was gifted that stock.  But, there’s still a lot of flavor in those bones, so, let’s get it.
  2. Place the bones in a stock pot and cover with water.  Let simmer for an hour or two.
  3. If you want more meat to go into your dish, brown them first, a good brown, in a separate pan.  The secondary meat can be set aside for later.  Use this pan with all the fond (browned bits) to gently saute the vegetables.

Step Two: BEANS

  1. I used the quick soak method.  Rinse and pick through the one cup of beans.
  2. Cover with water, about one inch.  Bring to a boil.  Let boil about 2 to 5 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat and let sit till needed, at least 30 minutes to 1 hour.  The beans will continue to “cook” during this time.

Step Three:  ONIONS AND CABBAGE

  1. Slow cooking brings out the best of cabbage.  Smells and tastes sweet and mellow, instead of that sulfurous smell that overcooked cabbage (and brussel sprouts, brocoli, and cauliflour) can create.
  2. I used about 1 tablespoon olive oil, and about 3 tablespoons of that pork fat on top of the stock.  If you save bacon fat, that could also be used.  If not, all olive oil would be great, too.
  3. With the heat on medium to medium-high, start with the onions, saute for about 10 minutes.  Add peppers and garlic, saute another 10 minutes.  Stir about every 3 to 4 minutes.
  4. Add the cabbage, and stir to combine.  Reduce heat to medium or lower.  About every 5 to 10 minutes, stir the cabbage.  It should not brown, but slowly become translucent.  If you start to smell that sulfurous smell, then the temperature is too high, or your pan is too thin.

Step Four:  COMBINE THE ELEMENTS

  1. Add the beans to the onions and cabbage.   (Your choice to use the soaking water.)
  2. Ladle in some pork stock.  Let simmer for 1 to 2 hours so that the beans can finish cooking.  If you are adding extra meats, this would be the time to add them in.
  3. Your choice of herbs would be added in now.  I ended up using about a teaspoon of sage, and a teaspoon of thyme, 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper.
  4. I also added some of the concentrated pork stock.
  5. Taste for salt and pepper.

With all the great stock in there, this soup had a great mouthfeel.   A little bit of pecorino cheese grated on top, on some croutons, run under the broiler for a few minutes would be great!

Buen Provecho!

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