I’ve had many versions of ham and beans, varying from the old "saw mill" beans my father used to eat, which were thick in consistency, all the way to lighter soup versions like Senate Bean Soup® that were delicious. This recipe is similar to the latter; soup that I made recently from a leftover ham bone with ham still attached. I know you will enjoy it, for it is delicious.
Due to the overnight softening of the dried beans in this recipe you will want to start preparation of this soup at least one day in advance of when you plan to eat it.
Serves four to six people.
1 large ham bone with meat attached
1 lb. bag of great northern dried beans, softened overnight in water
1 medium to medium large sweet onion, chopped
6 large or eight medium cloves of fresh garlic, diced
2 large carrots, diced
1 1/2 tsp. of black pepper
1 tsp. of dried thyme
2 14 oz. cans of chicken broth
2 14 oz. cans of water
½ stick of butter (optional)
Sea salt (May be added after cooking. Amount will vary based on ham saltiness.)
Wash and rinse the beans and let them soak in cold water overnight to soften them. Drain them in a colander.
Put the chicken broth and the water into a non-stick heavy soup pot along with the ham bone. Cover the pot and heat on high until boiling. Put the pot on a small burner and very low heat to simmer for one hour. Remove the ham and bone and cut the usable meat from the bone. De-fat the meat with a sharp knife and cut it into small pieces, roughly ½" cubes or smaller, and return them to the pot. Discard the bone and the fat.
Add all the other soup ingredients into the pot except the sea salt. Adjust the liquid level so that the beans are covered by at least one inch of liquid. Bring the soup to a boil on high heat and then reduce the heat to a simmer on a small burner and cover the pot.
Simmer the soup for one hour, stirring every ten minutes. Check the softness of the beans. Continue simmering the soup covered for up to two additional hours until the beans are soft with a few of them disintegrating into the rest of the soup. Stir every fifteen minutes to make sure the beans do not stick to the bottom of the pot, especially near the end of the cooking cycle. If necessary, thin the soup with a small amount of water at the end of the cooking cycle, but only if the soup is too thick. This soup should be thinner than a chowder but not have much excess liquid. It should be a hearty soup.
Taste the finished soup and adjust the seasonings. You may or may not want more pepper. You may or may not want to add sea salt, but if you do limit it to no more than one teaspoon. Each guest can make seasoning adjustments to suit themselves later, and too much salt is simply bad as it can ruin an otherwise perfect soup.
Serve with saltine crackers and butter. Beer is a great beverage choice, though sodas or iced tea are fine also. Your guests will feel pleasantly full after eating this delightful soup.