I don't know about you, but on a chilly fall night, I just get in the mood for some hearty, stick-to-your-ribs kind of soup. Well, tonight is one of those nights, and I really think you are going to love this recipe. The best part is, you basically put everything in your favorite soup pot and let it cook for at least 3 hours, or until the meat is really tender. It will take some time, so this is not one you are going to whip up when you get home from work!
I start out with a ham hock. If you can't find them at the store, you can use a ham bone. I find that if I go to the guy in the meat department and tell him I need some kind of ham bone for soup, they can usually find something for me... Worst-case scenario? Buy some ham and add it towards the end of the cooking time so you can get the most flavor possible.
|This is the ugly ham hock!|
Next I take four sweet italian sausages, remove the casings, and break up as I add them in.
Chop up 1 Vidalia onion, about 3 ribs of celery, 2 large carrots, and 2 cloves of garlic, and add them to your pot. At this point, I will pour in 2 16-oz cans of stewed tomatoes, crushed, as well as a large can of diced tomatoes. You will add one bag of rinsed lentils to the soup during the last hour of cooking.
Now for the seasoning.... a couple of bay leaves, 1 tbs of fresh thyme. (maybe 1/2 a tsp if using dried), 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper, 1/2 a cup of parsley, 2 tbs of cider vinegar, and 10 cups of water.
Bring this to a full boil, then back it down to a simmer for about 3 hours, or until the meat is really tender and falling off the bone. If you are using ham as opposed to a bone, add it in at this point. Otherwise, remove the bone, and return all of the meat to the soup. Don't forget to add the lentils. They need about 40 minutes or so to cook. The last ingredient I will add is the fresh spinach, how ever much you would like.
Now for the best part? Taste it.... You will need to add salt and pepper at this point. Make sure you taste the seasoning. You might even want to add a little more thyme if need be. There is just something about the flavors of the ham and sausage that really make this soup so delicious. If you don't like your soup too thick, pour in some chicken broth.