Christmas Night Turnip Greens Soup

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From Susan Puckett’s book “Eat Drink Delta”.

Descendants of some of Sumner’s earliest settlers still occupy a few of the former plantation homes on the long, crooked stream known as Cassidy Bayou, named for one of the early timbermen. They are a tight-knit bunch and entertain regularly among themselves, especially around the holidays. For as long as most people can remember, they have celebrated both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day at neighbors’ homes, with lavish, traditional spreads of favorite dishes. For many years, turnip greens soup was the specialty of Betty Pearson, who based her recipe on one for the Spanish classic Caldo Gallego, which she and husband Bill had enjoyed in Madrid. Versions of it now turn up all over the Delta— including as an occasional special at Turnrow Books cafe in Greenwood, where one of the employees just happens to be from Sumner. Collards or kale may be substituted for the turnip greens.

Caldo Gallego (Betty’s Christmas Night Turnip Greens Soup)
Makes 10 to 12 servings

11/2cups dried white navy beans
8 ounces Serrano, country, or other dry-cured or smoked ham, diced
2 smoked ham hocks
1 large onion, chopped
2 quarts chicken broth, plus more as needed
1 pound turnip greens, stems removed, leaves washed and
coarsely chopped
2 small hot chiles, such as serrano, pricked several times with a fork
6 ounces chorizo or andouille sausage, thinly sliced and sauteed lightly
to remove fat
3 to 5 small red new potatoes, peeled and diced (about 2 cups)
Salt, ground black pepper, and cayenne pepper, to taste
French bread, cornbread, or ham biscuits, for serving

Pick over the beans, discarding any bad ones. Rinse the beans, pour them into a large bowl, cover with cold water to a depth of at least 2 inches, and let soak overnight. Drain the beans and pour them into a large pot. Add the ham, ham hocks, onion, and chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the beans are almost tender, about 1 hour, adding more chicken broth if needed to keep the beans submerged. Add the turnip greens and chiles and simmer for another 45 minutes. Add the sausage and potatoes and cook until the potatoes are tender, adding broth as needed to keep everything well covered. Remove the ham hocks and chiles with a slotted spoon. Discard the bones, fat, and skin of the hocks; cut any lean meat into small bits and return it to the soup. Season the soup with salt, pepper, and cayenne. Remove the pot from stove and let the soup cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Skim the congealed fat off of the surface of the soup. Bring the soup slowly to a boil and taste for seasoning. If it’s too thick, thin with water. Serve with good French bread or cornbread. (On Christmas night the Sumner crowd typically serves it with ham biscuits.)

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