While many festivals and large gatherings have been canceled or turned virtual this year, one festival in central Pennsylvania was willing to modify, but not cancel its beloved event.
The Bean Soup Festival, held each year in tiny McClure since 1883 as a memorial to veterans of all wars, took place last week with traditional 35-gallon wood-fired kettles of steaming soup ladled out to hungry citizens. As many as 16 kettles are working at one time, with volunteers stirring the soup for two-hour shifts.
The soup they served was the same recipe that the local veterans group has been serving since the festival began, based on soup served to men who fought in the Civil War. The soup is a hearty broth full of navy beans and bits of ham accompanied by bags of oyster crackers and served for $4 a bowl.
Over the years tens of thousands have attended the six-day festival each year. This year the modified festival eliminated all rides, but still drew loyal fans each day to eat soup and honor local veterans.
Navy bean soup is a classic dish in America, made using navy beans that are native to the Americas along with ham or salt pork, onions, carrots and seasonings. Some recipes also include tomatoes. Navy beans reportedly take their name from the United States Navy, which has served the soup to sailors since at least the 19th century.
With the arrival of fall, this old-fashioned basic bean soup recipe from allrecipes.com can help keep you warm as the nights get cooler and the days get shorter.
1 (16-ounce) package dried navy beans
7 cups water
1 ham bone
2 cups diced ham
¼ cup minced onion
½ teaspoon salt
1 pinch ground black pepper
1 bay leaf
½ cup sliced carrots
½ cup sliced celery
Step 1. Place rinsed beans into a large stock pot. Add water and bring to a boil. Boil gently for 2 minutes; remove from heat, cover and let stand for 1 hour.
Step 2. Add ham bone, cubed ham, onion, salt, pepper and bay leaves. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, cover and simmer for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until beans are soft. Occasionally skim surface of soup while it is cooking.
Step 3. Add carrots and celery, cook until tender. Remove ham bone, scrape any meat from bone and place back into soup and serve.
Makes eight servings. Per serving: 246.5 calories; protein 17.4g 35% DV; carbohydrates 36.7g 12% DV; fat 3.8g 6% DV; cholesterol 16.7mg 6% DV; sodium 542.9mg 22% DV.