Monday, March 31, 2014

Prairie Kitchens - Ripe Bean Soup

In 1970, the Mennonite ladies of Aberdeen worried their old recipes were being lost to a younger generation. They wrote out their traditional dishes and published a cookbook called Mother's Pioneer Recipes, recalling a time when "mother made the best of what she had and what could be produced at home."

It was a century after the first Mennonites arrived in Canada in the 1870s. Though they spoke German, the Mennonites had been living in southern Russia, where they were successful farmers.In 1873, the Canadian government sent an agent to Russia to entice the Mennonites to western Canada. Today, that area is in the eastern pro-Russian part of Ukraine. Many answered the call.

They settled first in Manitoba and spread into Saskatchewan territory in the 1890s, first around Rosthern and then to Hague-Warman-Osler-Aberdeen and communities in between. Several years later, in 1924, Saskatchewan historian John Hawkes wrote that the Mennonite settlers were "among our most worthy, industrious and hard-working citizens."

Early cokbooks did not usually include recipes for traditional dishes that came with the various ethnic groups that settled Saskatchewan. For the most part, these recipes weren't written down but passed from generation to generation in the kitchen.We can thank the ladies of Aberdeen for writing down this soup recipe for posterity.

The word "ripe" seems to refer to dried beans, as opposed to fresh beans. The smoked pork hock was purchased at Prairie Meats.

Ripe Bean Soup
1 pork hock, smoked or salted
2 cups dried white beans
10 black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1 star anise
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tsp salt
Sour cream for serving (optional)

Put pork hock in a stock pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and simmer 1 hour. Place peppercorns, bay leaf and star anise in a spice ball or sachet. Add the spices and beans to the pot, cover and simmer 2 hours, topping up with water if needed.

Remove pork hock. Add chopped onion and cook until the beans and onion are very soft, another hour. Meanwhile, remove meat from bone, chop and add to the pot. Remove spices. Season with salt as needed (this will depend on the saltiness of the meat). To serve, it is optional to stir a bit of sour cream into each bowl.

Do you have prairie recipe with a story? Send me a comment. Follow at

(This article first appeared in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix.)


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Kathleen Gudmundsson said...

Hi Amy, though I don't have a Saskatchewan-specific prairie food story, I did recently try to make the Icelandic cake made by my great-grandmother in Manitoba! You can read about it here if you'd like:

Amy Jo Ehman said...

Super cool, Kathleeen. I've included Vinarterta in my new cookbook on pioneer recipes. Looking forward to reading your post.

Anonymous said...

Thank God! I found this recipe - it's what my mother put in the ripe bean soup. She has passed on long ago, but I never made the soup until now . I had a craving for it.
I will sometime send you some other traditional Mennonite recipes

Amy Jo Ehman said...

Glad to be of service! I hope it tastes as good as Mom's :)