Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Okra Ham Soup

Okra Ham Soup is a summer recipe. I just squeaked under the line of what was possible with fresh produce. On Friday, my husband Bob and I went to the acupuncturist in Bethesda, and afterwards, took a turn through the Bethesda Women's Farm Market. This throwback to the 1940s is a small, shed-like building surrounded by Bethesda's nine or ten story office buildings. It contains relatively few actual farmers. I think there might be two or three. There is a woman who sells arsenal chocolate, a man who sells hand turned wooden bowls, a woman who sells Indian food, etc. You get the picture.
We stopped at the farmer, where I noticed okra. A week ago, I had bought a ham for this very recipe, which called for a ham bone. A person who shall remain nameless had gone all efficient and discarded the ham bone, but we won't talk about that. We still had the ham, and Mr. Farmer had the okra.
I bought the okra and Friday night, I went to work on the soup. It does not do to let okra lie around in  your refrigerator. I have done this, and I can tell you what happens. It becomes slimy. I sliced the okra, used salt pork instead of bacon because we didn't have any bacon, and a can of petite diced tomatoes. Then I got to the lima beans. I thought maybe we had limas lurking in the bowels of the freezer, but no such luck. I finished off the soup sans limas , using frozen corn, but fresh thyme from the garden.
Saturday morning, I set off with my shopping bag and Watson the corgi to run down lima beans at the farmers' market on Connecticut Avenue. For this late in the year, the farmers, who were mainly Latino, had quite an array of produce, tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, kale, and a bunch of other stuff. as well as yummy looking and smelling El Salvadorian food, eggs and farm baked bread. One guy had beans in the shell that may have been limas. At least he said they were.  They might have been broad beans. He said his beans were the last for the season, so I bought all of them.
I got them home and settled down to shell beans and listen to the famous National Public Radio news quiz program, Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me. My calculations required a half cup of limas, but I ended up with less than a quarter of a cup. What the heck. They went in the soup.
The result was smoky and rich, excellent over rice, a great fall dinner. Southerners seem to like hot soup in hot weather, but I prefer it when the weather changes.

Okra Ham Soup

2 pounds okra, finely sliced. (frozen okra can be used)
1 tablespoon bacon drippings
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 ham bone (or a cup of diced ham)
6 tomatoes, peeled and chopped, or four cups canned
1 cup fresh butter or lima beans
1 small sprig thyme or one-half teaspoon dried thyme
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
water or chicken broth if necessary
1 1/2 corn kernels, cut from cob
3 cups hot cooked rice

1. Cook the okra quickly in a skillet with the bacon drippings and vinegar until okra loses its slimy consistency, stirring constantly.
2. Transfer to a kettle and add  the ham bone, tomatoes, beans and thyme. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and simmer until meat on bone is very tender. Remove bone. Chop ham and return to kettle. Check consistency and, if too thick, add water or chicken broth.
3. Add corn kernels to soup. Cook three minutes. Serve over the rice.
Makes six servings.

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