Georgia Candy Roaster Soup with Beans, Collards, and Bacon is a Southern take on a staple of Italian Winter Home cooking — Pumpkin and White Bean Soup (Zuppa di zucca e fagioli bianchi). Georgia Candy Roaster squash is a variety cultivated by the Cherokees in the southern Appalachian Mountains in the 1800s. It is now listed by the Cherokee Nation and Slow Food USA as an heirloom crop. The variety offers a unique winter squash taste. It is sweeter than most squash, hence the name.
The Georgia Candy Roasters are substituted in for the Italian pumpkin. In addition to the sweetness, they have a somewhat mild taste. To offset this, I added the stronger taste of collards as opposed to chard you might find in an Italian soup. The collards offset the squash well without overwhelming it. Bacon is the obvious Southern substitute for pancetta. I further enhanced it by adding a Parmesan Reggiano rind (or a hunk of Parmesan will do). The result was delicious.
You will find this unusual addition to the Southern food heritage in your fall markets. They store well for, up to six months if you want to buy a few. They actually sweeten as they age.
This soup is a welcome addition to my Southern Collection of recipes.
Notes on Ingredients
Preparing the Roasters
Start by removing the roaster’s rind. A vegetable peeler will work. Start by, cutting off the ends of the roasters that are hard to work with and scrape away anything green. Lastly, split open and remove the seeds and the fibrous tough slime connected to the seeds.
Any type of white beans will work. Cannelini is the common Italian style. In the soup photographed here, I used fresh October beans; large and flavorful. I prefer fresh beans when available, but you may prepare some dried beans if you need, or canned beans as a time saver.
Notes on Technique
Staging the Cooking
The only problematic issue with this soup is the collards need about 30 minutes of cooking, the squash about 15, and the cooked beans about 5. So, I have staged them. Adding each ingredient is added in spaced-out intervals and returning the pot to a simmer each time.
- 3 lb Georgia Candy Roaster (should give about 2 lbs of squash)
- ~ 10 medium to large collard greens leaves, washed, stemmed and chopped
- olive oil
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 1 medium onion minced
- 1/2 pound bacon, chopped
- 3 cups of cooked fresh white beans with liquid (or 2- 14 ounce cans)
- salt and pepper to taste
- Parmigiano Reggiano rind (see note)
- Peel the Candy Roaster with a vegetable peeler. Split the squash and remove the seeds and attached fibrous strings. Cube the squash into bite-sized chunks. Cover and set aside.
- In a dutch oven start browning the bacon, to crisp and release fat over low-medium temperature. After a bit of fat is released, for 3-5 minutes, add the onion and garlic. Continue to brown slowly until onions and garlic begin to color. Drain excess fat if needed.
- Add a bit of water to the pot to dissolve the fond at the bottom. Heat to a simmer.
- Add the cut collards to the dutch oven with enough salted water to cover. Increase heat to bring to a simmer. When the simmering starts, reduce the heat and cook for about 10 minutes.
- Add the cut squash. Again add water to cover, and salt as needed. Increase the heat to bring it to a simmer. When the simmering starts, reduce the heat and simmer for 10 more minutes.
- Remove the Parmigiano rind, unless you want a stronger taste.
- Add the beans and cook for 5 minutes.
- Test all ingredients for doneness and salt and pepper as necessary.
- The soup is better if you let it rest for an hour or so in the pot. To serve, reheat and serve with crusty bread.
If you do not have a Parmigiano Reggiano rind, use a chunk of Parmigiano or grate some on top as you serve.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 12 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 415Total Fat: 8gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 19mgSodium: 250mgCarbohydrates: 62gFiber: 4gSugar: 36gProtein: 11g
Calculated Nutrition is estimated.