I recently shared my tweaks and additions to Hungarian Ham and Bean Soup from Saveur: October 2013, as part of their "Focus on Hungary" article called Rhapsody in Red. The wonderful taste memories it conjured, also brought to mind a similar soup that used smoked Hungarian sausage instead of a smoked ham hock.

We just made our annual batch of sausage using my Dad's homemade equipment, but we have never gone the next step of smoking the sausages - though my grandfather used to do this in his garden shed - who knows what the neighbours thought! Maybe they didn't mind if they got free sausage. Especially among my grandfather's generation - there was never a day went by when he did not have a bite of smoked sausage and/or smoked bacon. it was like his "snack". He had no health problems from this aspect of his diet - it was mainly lung damage from working in gold mines in Noranda, QC that gave him grief.

Thanks to Saveur again for offering a great recipe for this smoked sausage version of Bean Soup. It takes much less time than the ham hock soup. Review my Tips and Notes (below) to see how I tweaked this recipe.

Getting ready: soak the beans the night before; prep vegetables and mini dumplings - both can be done the day before.

1 cup dried beans (see Notes)
1/2 lb smoked sausage, such as kielbasa, cut into 1/2" pieces
1/2 tsp. dried tarragon
1/2 tsp. caraway seeds
[6 cherry peppers, stemmed - optional]
4 med carrots, peeled, trimmed, cut crosswise into 3" pieces
1 small celery root (2/3 lb.), peeled and cut into 1/4" pieces
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1 dried bay leaf

Soak the beans overnight and drain before using for the soup.

(See Notes about sausage quantity.) Put beans, sausage, and 14 cups water into a large pot (or Dutch oven type pan) and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until beans are half cooked, about 25 minutes. Add tarragon, caraway, (peppers), carrots, celery root, onions, and bay leaf and cook, stirring occasionally, until beans are tender, 40–45 minutes.

The soup is enhanced with mini dumplings which cook within 10 minutes. Click here for that recipe - which can be prepared ahead of time, even the day before. With the soup at a low to medium simmer, drop little bits of the dumpling batter into the soup. They cook quickly and will rise to the top when done.

1 TB lard
2 TB flour

1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 TB Hungarian paprika
Freshly ground black pepper

1 TB chopped flat-leaf parsley

Similar to the ham hock soup, this soup has a classic "rantas" / thickener. Visit the photos and detailed instructions I offer on this for the ham hock bean soup (click here).

The same principles and tips apply, but this thickener will be easier and faster to make since it involves only 1 TB of lard (compared to the other which used 1/4 cup of lard). It may take only 2-4 minutes for the lard and flour to become golden. Just as the flour is beginning to turn golden, add the garlic - and it will cook in the minute or so that it takes the flour to colour nicely. Take the mixture/pan off the heat when adding the paprika - paprika can burn very quickly, leaving a horrid bitter taste - forcing you start all over. Add the parsley just at the end so it stays nice and green. As per the ham hock recipe, add some soup broth to the thickener to loosen the consistency and then add it all back to the soup pot - cook the soup for 2-3 minutes longer.  Remove the bay leaves before serving. 

Notes and Tips...

  • Beans -  the recipe calls for Cannellini beans which are large white Italian kidney beans. I still had dry pinto beans left for the Ham Hock Soup, so I just used those. Interesting that while the ham hock recipe called for 1 lb of pinto beans this calls for only 1 cup of cannellini beans. The latter do puff up larger - but 1 cup seems not enough for a soup made with 14 cups of water. I used 1 lb of dry pinto, soaked overnight and drained. As always, be sure the beans are covered with water to spare - they will absorb a lot.
  • Hungarian Sausages - are called kolbász - and there are several types of the smoked, dried versions needed for this soup - a few of which seem to be readily available at delicatessens. Look for Csabai or Debreceni kolbász. They will come in mild and hot versions - your call. The dry sausage will soften during the cooking and will be quite palatable.
  • Sausage amount - I forgot to weigh the sausage I bought/buy. Dried, smoked sausages tends to come in pieces about 8" long and there are always two attached to each other. This is what I buy - I should have weighed it. Hungarians - including KB family members enjoy eating chunks of this as a snack, alone or with a hunk of rye bread. In case you're worried that some sausage will disappear before the soup is made - buy extra. Extra sausage in this never hurts either.
  • Heat - I am not a big fan of hot and spicy, but if you are, that flavour profile can be introduced in the sausage and/or the paprika. The original recipe suggests not only hot paprika but the addition of cherry peppers which (in my experience - at least in Hungary) are crazy hot!! (Not for me, thank you...)
  • Lard - lard has been used to begin most Hungarian recipes for centuries. It's use suffered a bit in the last century when "fat" had a "bad wrap". For more details re the use of lard and fat see my Flummoxed about Fat blog post. I find it is easy to find lard these days at delis. If you opt for canola oil instead, you will have a lovely soup, but it will not be quite as authentic.
  • Paprika - as per above, I do not use the hot version. I have summarized all you need to know about paprika here.
  • Flour - the best flour to use for the thickener is Easy Blend - guaranteed no lumps.

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