Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Ham and Bean Soup

Ham and bean soup, made with a ham hock or ham bone stock, a mixture of veggies and Navy pea beans.

Ham and Bean Soup

The soup photos I ended up with for my post don't really give justice to the beauty of this soup, and of course, the soup was long gone before I uploaded the shots I took. I can assure you of one thing though. This soup is divinely delicious! It was gone in no time at our house and I was left with that wish I had more feeling.

You've all heard of it before of course - the famous ham and bean soup based on the one on the menu at the Senate every day. I know, I know... when it comes to anything government these days, things can get snarky for sure, but understand that has nothing to do with this, other than it's served in the cafeteria.

Like any legendary food, there is debate over who should be credited with creating it. One story attributes it to Senator Fred Dubois of Idaho, whose version includes mashed potatoes. Another credits Senator Knute Nelson of Minnesota, whose recipe does not include the potatoes, but adds braised onion. I sort of combined the best of the two with a few of my own twists, to create this version.

Senate bean soup is made with navy pea beans, rather than other white beans such as the northern beans. Typically, I am finding that with the low and slow cook involved, smaller white beans don't really need to soak or speed cook. Since some folks seem to prefer soaking, I have included that in the instructions. I prefer Camellia brand beans, but use whatever brand you like.

The key to making this soup super flavorful as always though, is first creating a stock from the ham hocks or ham bone used. I try to always keep a few hocks in the freezer and typically buy the store brand of whatever is available, but The Cajun had picked up this big, fat, beautiful and meaty package of pork hocks on his last stop for me.

I used the larger piece shown on the left for this pot of soup. Select the best ones you can find.

If you don't have a very meaty pork hock, you'll definitely want to add in some chopped smoked ham with this soup, so it's a good time to pull out one of those holiday chunks you saved in the deep freeze. I use a pretty standard stock recipe of celery, carrot, onion, parsley, bay leaves and whole peppercorns, and let that go for a good hour before going forward with the rest of the recipe.

When you don't have the time to make a ham stock for the soup or cook down the dried beans, you can still get a pretty good version of ham and bean soup using a few shortcuts. I've included that in my cook's notes with the recipe, just in case you're short on time, but would still like to make a nice ham and bean soup.

The recipe attributed to one of the senators included mashed potatoes though today's version does not, so here's what I did that's a little different I think than most Senate bean soup recipes that you see.

First, I boiled together one large, chopped baking potato along with 1-1/2 cups of chopped onion, a chopped rib of celery and a large, chopped garlic clove. 

Then I drained and mashed all of that together with a bit of bacon drippings (or sub in butter) and added it to the soup pot, along with the diced ham.

This smoked pork hock produced a nice supply of ham!

I also had some leftover baked ham on hand, so even though I had a nice, meaty ham hock, I did add some diced ham too.

What a wonderful soup, and I really do love the addition of the fresh potatoes mashed in with the veggies.

Here's how to make it.

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Posted by on January 29, 2013
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