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When bow season is just a fond memory and winter’s cold keeps the hunter close to the hearth, there’s nothing like a hearty soup featuring fall’s harvest to warm the inner man. Here’s an example.

1 ½ tablespoons olive oil
2 cups chopped onion
1 cup chopped carrots
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 whole bay leaf
2 cups chopped and peeled tomatoes
16 ounces dried navy (or other white) beans—see tip on beans below
6 cups chicken stock (or water and stock)
1 ham hock
½ pound browned, crumbled, bulk venison sausage
1 (10-ounce) package frozen spinach, defrosted and drained)
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large soup pot over medium high heat, heat olive oil and sauté onions, carrots and garlic. Add dried herbs and bay leaf and sauté for one minute. Add tomatoes, drained navy beans, chicken stock or water, and ham hock. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer until beans are tender (do not let liquid cook away completely—add more if necessary) for about 90 minutes.

Remove ham hock and chop ham. Return chopped ham, along with crumbled venison sausage, to soup. Add spinach and cook for about a minute. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately. Great with hot homemade bread or bruschetta.

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