My friend, Nikki, has always made the BEST Lentil Soup. When we first met 40+ years ago, I was a brand-new, very young wife, married to an Air Force man and Nikki and I hit it off immediately. She too was married to an Air Force man, and was just a few years older than me, therefore wiser, right? She also had the benefit of growing up as the daughter of an Air Force officer. This was immensely beneficial over time as we both learned how to be Air Force wives.
Anyway, wayyyyyy back then she made this Lentil Soup. I had never heard of it, and to be quite truthful, the first time I saw it, it did not look that appealing ... I mean it's brown with small bits of ham and carrot in it. Seriously, her own two sons have always called it "mud soup," but they meant that in a good way, hahaha. And it isn't a pretty brown, it's kind of a nasty green/brown ... for some it's very hard to get past that color, but once you do ... oh my goodness, amazing flavor and taste.
Of course I had no idea then how frugal it was to make since lentils were fairly cheap and you used leftover ham pieces and a ham bone to create the soup. It was cheap to make, it fed a lot, was full of fiber and good for you, and also froze well. It fit the "then very tight budget" quite well.
I've tried honestly to make Nikki's Lentil Soup several times, but I have never been successful in making it taste like her's does ... ever. It might come close, but it's never quite the same. I can satisfy myself once in awhile with what I make, but mostly I look forward to getting some when Nikki makes it (at least once a year after the Christmas holiday).
Yep, I sure do look forward to the day a few frozen packs of that delicious soup make their way into my freezer, which is pretty easy since we've followed each other all over the world with military assignments, and she and her husband just live about 30-40 minutes away now. It's awesome to have best friends you've known your whole adult life.
1 bag lentils, rinsed
1 carrot (or more) chopped into small pieces
1 large celery stalk (or more) chopped into small pieces
1 large onion, chopped into small pieces
ham fat, and/or ham pieces, and ham juices (the more ham stuff the better)
1 tbls. minced garlic
salt to taste (more or less depending on saltiness of ham)
2 quarts ham stock or water (for the ham stock, leave out the chili powder and red pepper flakes)
Place all ingredients in a large stock pot and cover with ham stock or water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring often to prevent sticking.
As it thickens, reduce heat and simmer 2-3 hours, stirring occasionally. If you want the soup thicker, mash some of the lentils with a potato masher prior to serving. Soup freezes well.
**PRESSURE CANNING** If you would like to put some up, you can pressure can it using the following instructions: Cook as above only reduce cooking time to 1 hour (soup will finish cooking in the pressure canner).
In order to insure you have 1/2 solids to 1/2 liquid in each jar, strain soup through a mesh strainer with a large bowl placed under the strainer to catch the liquid.
Evenly distribute the solids to each jar filling half-full. Ladle liquid over top leaving 1" head-space. Process pint jars 75 minutes and quart jars 90 minutes at 11 lbs. pressure following manufacturer's directions.
Yield: approx. 7 pint jars or 2 quarts
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