A rich, creamy soup that's very easy to make. I came up with this recipe when faced with a bowl of soaked navy beans and the requirement to do something with them, using what I had on hand. This is a very flexible recipe, as you can use any small bean and substitute ham for the bacon. The bacon should be the premium smoked, thick-sliced bacon that's usually sold in bulk. Try to get the leanest they have. If you can't find this, Oscar Mayer has a thick-sliced premium bacon that comes in 12-oz packages. Use one package. If you use ham, get one of the no-water-added hams from the deli section, like Black Forest or brown sugar cured, and use about a third of a pound, chopped coarsely. Using ham will reduce the richness, of course, which may not be all bad. This soup is very good right out of the pan, but it's even better the next day.
- Pick over the beans and soak them in water for at least eight hours.
- Slice the bacon into half-inch strips and fry them until they're brown and crispy. Drain the bacon thoroughly and pour away all but about two tablespoons of the fat. (You can save the fat for other uses, as it has a nice smoky flavor.).
- Chop the onion and saute it in the reserved bacon fat until it's soft and translucent.
- Peel the garlic and slice the cloves into halves or thirds vertically. Add to the frying onions. Be extremely careful not to burn the garlic, as that will make it bitter and nasty.
- Put the soaked beans, fried bacon, sauteed onion and garlic, peppercorns, and bay leaves into the pressure cooker. Add water to cover by about an inch, Stir and process for 11 minutes under pressure. Allow to cool naturally (don't vent). Or, cook at a low simmer until the beans are soft all the way through.
- Remove the bay leaves and wizz with a stick blender to make a puree. Add the salt carefully, stirring thoroughly after each addition, until it tastes good to you. The amount, 2 tsp, is just an approximation, because the saltiness of the bacon varies.