Skip to content

A special soup for St. Bernadette and Our Lady of Lourdes

February 21, 2008

Chers Amis,

Monday was the feast day of St. Bernadette in France (et chez nous).  Her feast-day was originally designated as February 18th, the day Our Lady
promised to make Bernadette happy, not in this life, but in the next. In the U.S. people usually celebrate this feast on April 16 – the day of her death and entry into Heaven.  For some unknown reason, the February date stuck in my mind  – so we feted St. Bernadette a la francaise au moulin with a huge pot of steaming garbure. Gar -what you ask and what has that to do with St. Bernadette? Garbure[gar-BOOR], mes amis, is:

"A vegetable or meat
soup so thick it could be considered a stew or casserole dish. Garbure
has many variations, but most commonly contains cabbage, beans,
potatoes and bits of pork, bacon or preserved goose. It’s usually
served with toasted or fried bread. Garbure is immensely popular with
Basques and the most famous version comes from Béarn, France.
© Copyright Barron’s Educational Services, Inc. 1995 based on THE FOOD LOVER’S COMPANION, 2nd edition, by Sharon Tyler Herbst."

Garbure is typical of the region where St. Bernadette lived. Since we are rather fond of cooking, and more importantly eating on special feast days, I have been wanting to make garbure for either Our Lady of Lourdes or the Feast of St. Bernadette for years.  I have very happy memories (think Marcel Proust, madelines and a cup of linden tea) of eating a hearty bowl of garbure in the Pyrenees avec les parents d’Helene after cross country skiing in Barrege. (Very fun, very clutzy, very cold, much in need of hot soup!) The problem?  Finding a doable recipe that is still plus au moin authentique.  Garbure is a bit like barbeque – a signature dish for a region, with many variations on a theme.  I decided to use a recipe from with several additions and
subtractions d’apres le conseille gastronomique d’une chere amie and
expert in la cuisine du sud-ouest de la France. Garbure

It turned out fabulously and I only wish I had been able to add the duck (see below), eat some local fromage de brebis, and the infamous dried sausages made in Barrege.  Some are up  to 6 ft long!.  (I must say that once upon a time one some young foodie brought one home as a gift ready to tell customs that the large package was one of the long white candles pilgrims bring home from Lourdes. Our Lady must have been watching over her/him 🙂   The soup is wonderful and you must try it in April – if not sooner! (Merci, merci, merci, Helene! I had enough leftovers to freeze and when my sisdoc comes next week avec ses enfants on va manger la soupe, boire un ver de vin rouge, et penser a toi!)


PS – Here is a coloring sheet of Our Lady of Lourdes and St. Bernadette

PPS – Voici la recette pour la soupe from Gourmet Magazine with a few changes and additions:

Garbure (Cabbage and White Bean Soup) 

1 cup dried white beans such as Great Northern, navy, or cannellini (7 oz), picked over and rinsed

1 whole clove (omit – trop pot de feu – a different dish)
1 medium onion, peeled and left whole
2 1/2 lb smoked ham hocks (preferably unsmoked – I used several meaty hambones instead of hocks)
streaky bacon – I added a whole package, sauted until cooked but not crunchy, retained a cup or so to fully brown for garnish
3 qt water
6 fresh parsley sprigs
1 Turkish or 1/2 California bay leaf (omit – trop sud est or south east)
1 fresh thyme sprig (omit – trop sud est or south east)
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 lb yellow-fleshed potatoes such as Yukon Gold (3 to 4 medium
6 leeks
6 carrottes
6 turnips
 ( I was nervous about using turnips and only used 3, but they were excellent and would add all 6 next time)
1 lb cabbage, cored and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (6 cups)

If you can, include duck confit, duck or even chicken quarters.  I could not find confit de canard so we went without poultry and it was still excellent.

1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened (see note below)
12 (1/2-inch-thick) slices from a baguette.


Soak beans in cold water to cover by 2 inches at room temperature at
least 8 hours, or quick-soak (see cooks’ note, below). Drain in a

Stick clove into onion. Bring ham hocks and 3 quarts water to a boil in
a wide 6- to 7-quart heavy pot, skimming off any froth, then reduce
heat and simmer, covered, 1 hour. Add beans, onion, parsley, bay leaf,
thyme, and garlic and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until
beans are almost tender, 40 to 50 minutes.

When beans are almost done, peel potatoes and cut into 1-inch pieces.
Add potatoes, turnips, carrots, leeks and cabbage to beans, then simmer, uncovered, until
vegetables are very tender, 20 to 25 minutes.

Remove ham hocks. When ham hocks are cool enough to handle, discard
skin and bones, then cut meat into bite-size pieces. Stir into soup
with salt and pepper to taste. Discard bay leaf and onion.

Spread butter on both sides of bread, then toast in a 12-inch heavy
skillet over moderate heat, turning over once, until golden, about 2
minutes total.

Serve soup with toasts. (This may taste good but is not necessary as the soup is quite rich by itself.)

Cooks’ notes:
• Beans can be soaked up to 12 hours, chilled.
• To quick-soak beans: Cover beans with cold water by 2 inches in a 5-
to 6-quart pot and bring to a boil, uncovered. Boil beans, uncovered, 2
minutes, then remove from heat and let stand, uncovered, 1 hour.
• Soup improves in flavor if made 1 day ahead, cooled completely,
uncovered, then chilled, covered. Remove any solidified fat and reheat,
thinning with water if necessary.



5 Comments leave one →
  1. hélène permalink
    February 21, 2008 12:11 pm

    Je suis très contente que ta soupe ait été réussie. Maintenant, c’est à toi à m’apprendre à faire un vrai cheese cake !

    On rit encore au sujet de ton cierge de Lourdes

    Bises à toi et à sisdoc

  2. Ezmerelda permalink
    February 21, 2008 2:09 pm

    This looks delicious. I’m printing it to try this weekend. Apropos of turnips, we used them for the first time in a soup a couple weeks back. I wasn’t too fond of the radish-y tang, but my eldest son LOVED them. Maybe we’ll compromise at 4.

  3. February 21, 2008 3:31 pm


  4. February 22, 2008 8:43 am

    This soup sounds delicious, all that bean and bacon goodness would go over well here!

  5. February 28, 2008 7:29 pm

    This looks positively scrumptious, I’m printing this out for next year, merci beaucoup cherie!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s