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Black Bean Soup with Madeira and Lime

2 1/2 c Black beans soaked and drained
10 c Water
2 c Chicken or beef stock, unsalted
1 Smoked ham hock (1/2 lb) or
1/4 lb Raw, cured ham * cut in 1/2" dice
1 oz Salt pork, tough rind trimmed and discarded cut in 1/2" dice
3 lg Onion(s), coarsely chopped
3 Stalks celery coarsely chopped
2 md Carrots, coarsely chopped
1 tb Whole mixed pickling spices tied in cheesecloth
2 ts Thyme leaves or
1/2 ts Dried thyme
2 ts Minced sage or
1 ts Dried sage
1/4 ts Cayenne or to taste
1/4 c Madeira wine
1 tb Tomato paste
2 tb Red wine vinegar
2 tb Light molasses
Salt to taste 9opt)
2 Hard-boiled eggs (whites only) finely chopped
Lime slices
2 tb Parsley, minced

In a 7-qt. Dutch oven or a stockpot, bring the beans, water and stock to a boil. Skim off foam. Lower heat, cover and simmer for 1 hour. Add the ham hocks, bring to a boil again, lower heat and simmer 10 minutes more.

Meanwhile, slowly heat the salt pork in a large skillet so that the fat is rendered. Raise the heat to medium high, add the onions and saut for 5 minutes, stirring often. Add the celery and carrots and continue to cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes more. Add the vegetables and the spice bag, stir in the thyme and sage and cook for another hour.

Remove and discard the spice bag and the ham hock, if used. Pure the soup in batches in a food processor, and return to the pot after pureing. if the soup is too thick, add more water for desired consistency. Reheat soup over low heat, stir in the cayenne, wine, tomato paste, vinegar and molasses and simmer for 3 minutes more.

Taste for salt and add if necessary. When ready to serve, ladle the soup into serving bowls and sprinkle with some chopped egg white. Float a slice of lime on the surface of each bowl and sprinkle with a little minced parsley.

Note: if cured ham is used, pure it with the soup.

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