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Farro and Cranberry Bean Soup

December and still no snow.  Very, very strange, I say.  Weather patterns have really shifted over the past couple of years.  I can remember Halloweens as a kid when I had to wear my winter coat, hat, gloves, and boots.  Because it was SNOWING!  And since my birthday falls just a few days after Halloween, I used to pray that it wouldn't snow until after that day.  And sometimes it wouldn't.  Sure, sometimes flurries would fly without sticking, but it was a rare year that I didn't have snow on or around my birthday.  Back to present day, it's exactly one month (and a few hours) past my birthday and still no sign of the white stuff.  I think some came down sometime last month, but I can't be sure.  My short term memory just isn't what it used to be.  Just a mere hour north of us at my mom's house, they've had snow on the ground for the better part of a week.  I know I'm inviting danger with just the mere mention of not having any yet.  I'm not's just curious.  I don't know why I feel like I need to justify myself by saying that I actually DO like snow.  I just hate driving in it.  Unless, of course, all of the whackos stay off the streets.  I'd be perfectly fine if I only had my car to contend with on the slippery roads and not the psychos in their SUV's who don't seem to realize...or care...that not everybody can stop on a dime if they happen to cut them off.  But I do love being tucked cozily in the house when there's a couple feet of snow inside.  As long as the fridge and pantry are stocked and the whole family is home.  Even playing in the yard or sledding down the street is good, as long as we can come in and warm up with a steaming cuppa hot chocolate...or spiked coffee...and a steaming bowl of hearty soup.  Like a bowl of bean-thickened soup with mouthfuls of chewy farro and crunchy bacon on every spoon.  I will just have to eat while closing my eyes right now...and imagine that there is snow to go with the temperatures in the low 30's.  Oh yes.  I can totally see it now...
Farro and Cranberry Bean Soup
inspired by & adapted from Tessa Kiros's Spelt & Cranberry Bean Soup in From Apples to Jam
yield: 4-6 svgs.

1 c. dried Cranberry Beans, soaked overnight
 4 oz. bacon
1 onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
4 whole, peeled tomatoes
2 sage leaves, chopped
1 bay leaf
1 c. pearled farro, rinsed
6 c. poultry stock (or chicken broth/water)
freshly ground black pepper

to serve:
olive oil
fresh sage
fresh or dried red chiles
Drain beans.  Put in a large pan covered by a couple inches of cold water.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cook at a gently simmer until tender, ~1-1½ hours.  Drain most of the water off, then puree with an immersion blender.   Season to taste with salt. Reserve.

Chop the bacon in ¼" strips crosswise, then cook in a medium Dutch oven (or heavy pot) until done.  Scoop out onto a paper towel lined  plate and reserve.  Add onion, celery, and garlic to bacon grease in pot over medium heat until they start to soften and just turn golden in parts.  Squoosh the tomatoes with your hands and add to the pot along with the sage, bay leaf, and farro.  Stir around for a minute or two.  Add in stock and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer until the farro is tender, ~30 minutes.  Taste and season to your liking with salt and pepper.  Stir in bean puree.  Cook another 10 minutes or so.  Taste again and adjust seasoning, if necessary.

To serve, ladle into bowls and drizzle with a bit of olive oil, reserved bacon, and sage and chiles, if using.
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