Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Navy bean soup at Upper Blue Lake

Last month I prepared Navy bean soup for my sister and her husband at Upper Blue Lake in Eldorado National Forest. This was the fifth year that Debbie and I joined them at the lake. They camped at the lake several years before us.

In the weeks leading up to the trip, my sister and I coordinate the menu. We split the dinners and breakfasts. Each family is left to its own devises for lunch. I usually pack too much food. My original thought was to prepare Navy bean soup for lunch. The planned meal (sauteed chicken breast with cilantro cream sauce) remained in the cooler.

Since we snacked that day, I suspended a 10-inch Dutch oven over the fire at noon and began the soup. This not the first time I have cooked soup at the lake. In 2011, I prepared split pea soup for our mother, who was camping with us. You can view the recipe and the story behind the recipe.

To begin the soup, I set the Dutch oven over the cooking fire. After it pre-heated, 6 ounces diced salt pork was rendered in the pot. One diced carrot and 1 diced onion went into the pot next. The vegetables and salt pork were stirred every couple minutes until lightly caramelized.
One pound small white beans were added to the pot along with 6 cups cold water. The beans were seasoned with bay leaves, granulated garlic, coarse ground black pepper and cayenne pepper. I added 2 additional cups of water after the beans had cooked three hours. I spent most of the afternoon reading and tending the fire.
Around 4 o'clock, I hiked up the mountain to this grove of Lodgepole pine trees. The is situated on a shelf on southern slope of The Nipple, a peak that overlooks Upper Blue Lake. During the hike, I left the soup over a small cooking fire. I added water to the beans and recharged the fire upon my return, about 45 minutes later.
The pot of soup was suspended over the fire from on a tripod. I left the lid on the pot to aid in cooking the beans. Given the altitude of 8,100 feet above sea level, it took just over 6 hours to soften the beans to the consistence of soup. The soup was ready to serve around 6 p.m. The convertible fire iron set was built by Campmaster of Mesa, Arizona, in the early 1990s. The iron set can be set up as a bipod or trip pod.

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