Tuesday, January 29, 2013

U.S. Senate Ham and Bean Soup

My version of the famous ham and bean soup, made with a ham hock or ham bone stock, a mixture of veggies and Navy pea beans, based on the one served at the U.S. Senate Restaurant every day.

Senate 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. 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. Though I have, 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 beans. 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.

Here's what I did that's a little different I think than most Senate bean soup recipes that you see. First, I boiled 1 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 mashed that all together with a bit of bacon drippings (or sub in butter) and added it to the soup pot, along with the diced ham.

I had some baked ham leftover, 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.

Recipe: U.S. Senate Ham and Bean Soup

©From the Kitchen of Deep South Dish
Prep time: 10 min |Cook time: 2 hours 30 min | Yield: About 4 to 6 servings


For the Ham Stock:
  • 1 pound of meaty smoked ham hocks
  • Water to cover (about 7 cups)
  • 1 celery stalk (rib) , rinsed but untrimmed, with leaves and cut into large chunks
  • 1 large carrot, unpeeled, rinsed and cut into large chunks
  • 1 medium onion, unpeeled and quartered
  • 4 sprigs of fresh parsley
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon of whole peppercorns
For the Soup:
  • 1 pound of dry navy (pea) beans, soaked overnight
  • 1 large baking potato, peeled and diced
  • 1-1/2 cups of chopped onion
  • 1 celery stalk (rib), chopped
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon of bacon drippings or butter
  • 1 cup of finely diced smoked ham, optional
  • 1 teaspoon of kosher salt, or to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper, or to taste
  • Cayenne pepper or Cajun seasoning, to taste, optional

Soak beans overnight to speed the cooking process. Add the hocks to a stockpot and cover with water. Add the remaining stock ingredients, bring mixture to a boil, reduce and simmer for 1 hour. Strain stock, discarding the vegetables and returning the ham hocks and the stock to the soup pot.

Rinse and sort through the beans, add to the soup pot; bring to a boil, reduce and simmer for 1 hour longer. Remove ham hock and once cooled enough to handle, dice meat from the hock, discarding skin and bone. Add the meat to the soup pot.

Bring a medium saucepan of water to boil. Add the potato, onion, celery and garlic all at once, return to a boil and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and mash with the bacon drippings or butter; add to soup pot, along with the diced ham, if using; bring to a boil, reduce, and simmer another 25 to 30 minutes, or until beans are tender. Taste, season with salt, pepper and Cajun seasoning; adjust as needed, serve hot.

Cook's Notes: Like all beans, soup will thicken when refrigerated. To loosen, add chicken broth when reheating, a little at a time, until desired consistency is reached.

Shortcut This: You can shortcut this recipe for a quick weeknight soup by omitting the ham hock or bone, and substituting a commercial ham or chicken broth for the homemade stock, adding in 2 tablespoons of chicken base. Include the remaining soup seasonings and the chopped, smoked ham and substitute 4 cans of navy beans, drained and well rinsed, for the dried beans, mashing one can to add creaminess to the soup. Mix together over medium heat until completely heated through.

Instant Pot: To prepare stock, add the pork hocks and remaining stock ingredients to pot, seal pot and set manually for 60 minutes. Let pressure release naturally. Strain out all solids, setting aside the hocks. Add remaining soup ingredients to pot, except for the seasonings, seal and set on manual for 30 minutes. Let pressure release naturally for 10 minutes, then carefully release remaining pressure manually. Remove lid and set to sauté, if desired, to thicken to desired consistency. Pick meat off of the hock and add to soup.


Requires Adobe Reader - download it free!
©Deep South Dish
Are you on Facebook? If you haven't already, come and join the party! We have a lot of fun & there's always room for one more at the table.
Check These Recipes Out Too Y'all!

Cajun White Beans and Rice
Old School Ham Bone Beans
Mixed Bean Soup

Posted by on January 29, 2013
Images and Full Post Content including Recipe ©Deep South Dish. Recipes are offered for your own personal use only and while pinning and sharing links is welcomed and encouraged, please do not copy and paste to repost or republish elsewhere such as other Facebook pages, blogs, websites, or forums without explicit prior permission. All rights reserved.

Material Disclosure: Unless otherwise noted, you should assume that post links to the providers of goods and services mentioned, establish an affiliate relationship and/or other material connection and that I may be compensated when you purchase from a provider. You are never under any obligation to purchase anything when using my recipes and you should always perform due diligence before buying goods or services from anyone via the Internet or offline.