Inspired by a winter cold snap that sent temperatures near zero degrees Fahrenheit in the Northeast, I came up with this recipe for a real "stick to the ribs" bean soup. This recipe will yield three quarts of soup.

1 package (16 oz.) assorted dry beans with barley, such as the "16 Bean Soup Mix" distributed by Goya Foods. Be sure your soup mix contains some split peas, as these will thicken the soup as it cooks.

¼ cup barley (if there is no barley mixed with the beans)

1 ham steak (center cut slice of smoked ham)

2 or 3 small hamhocks

1 small onion, cut up

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons cooking oil

1 bay leaf

Pour the beans into a 2 quart plastic container and inspect them for small stones, bits of soil, etc. Rinse them carefully, then soak the beans overnight in a quart of water, saving the water used for soaking the beans. Cut the ham steak into ½ inch cubes. Do not discard the bone, if there is one in the ham steak, as it will add flavor to the soup. Heat the cooking oil in the bottom of a 3 quart pot, then sauté the cubes of ham. Add the beans and water, onion, salt, hamhocks, ham bone, and bay leaf. Add enough water to come within an inch of the top of the pot. Bring to a rapid boil, then reduce the heat and cover the pot, simmering over a low flame for three or four hours. Stir the soup periodically to prevent it from sticking.