This black bean soup recipe is similar to that made at the Tampa Ybor (Ee-bore) City area's famous Colombia Restaurant, in hundreds of Miami Cuban restaurants and cantinas, in thousands of Cuban-American homes once or twice a week and always on Noche Buena (Christmas Eve). It has some healthier additions, plus beans themselves are highly nutritious with lots of fiber, and the recipe is very low fat. An excellent choice for those cold, rainy autumn evenings.
Ybor City Black Bean Soup
7 to 8 cups of water (Note
The fastest way to make this soup is with a pressure cooker. If you don't have one, it's just as easy but takes longer.
Pick over and rinse the beans. Cover with half the water and set aside to soak.
Place the ham hocks or ham bone in a pressure cooker. (Note #2) Add the rest of the water and the bay leaf (if you are using whole ones). Cook on high pressure for about 20 minutes.
Remove from heat. Run under cold water to reduce pressure. Take out the bay leaves. Skim the broth of all fat, or run through a gravy separator. Return the broth to the pan.
To the broth and ham, add the beans with the water they are soaking in. Add the onions, green pepper, oregano, cumin, garlic and black pepper. While it is coming to a boil, cut the carrots into three-inch pieces. Slit each one into quarters lengthwise to make skinny three-inch long strips. Add to beans. Cap and bring up to pressure. As soon as it is fully pressurized, turn heat to low. Cook for 20 minutes. (Note #3)
Remove from heat and depressurize. Check to make sure the beans are extremely tender (older beans may take longer to cook). Remove the ham hocks or ham bone to a plate. Ladle about a third of the beans into a blender or food processor (a hand held blender works well too) with as little liquid and vegetables as possible. Process until creamy. Scrape back into the pan. Cut the ham from the bones. Cut into pieces, including the skin, removing all visible fat.
Return the meat to the beans, discarding the bones. Add salt, vinegar and olive oil. Stir to mix. Check seasonings. Add more salt, black pepper or even hot pepper sauce if a spicier soup is desired.
Best served with hot crusty Cuban bread for dipping in the soup. This recipe makes a little over 2 quarts of soup. If too much is left over, it freezes well.
Note #1: Since beans are frequently packed in 12 to 14-ounce packages instead of a pound, you can reduce the water slightly for the lesser quantity of beans. The other ingredients may remain the same.
Note #2: If you aren't using a pressure cooker, bring ham to a boil, then cover and reduce heat. Simmer for about 40 minutes for ham hocks, a shorter time for cooked ham or leftover ham bone.
Note #3: If you're not using a pressure cooker, cook on medium-low heat until beans are very tender, almost starting to fall apart. Stir on occasion and check water level; if it reduces too much you may have to add some.