How to make Ham and Bean Soup

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It is that time of year again. You know the one where it is so cold outside all you can think about is digging into a bowl of piping hot soup. Actually for me it doesn’t matter what the weather is like. I make soup all year long.
You might remember my Chicken Soup post from a few months ago. Making homemade soup is not as complicated as some people might think. You don’t need to have a bunch of complicated ingredients and spices on hand. There are just a few basic ingredients you need and then the world is your oyster as they say. You can add as much or as little ingredients as you’d like.
All of the soups that I make are pretty simple to make. And once you know the technique you can make any kind of soup you like.
I may be one of the only people in the world that bakes a ham just so she can make a pot of beans. But that is exactly what I start thinking about when I buy a ham. What kind of bean soup am I going to make with the left overs?
When I was a child my mother would make split pea soup. It has been years since I made split pea soup because my family will not eat it and making a huge pot and having it go to waste is too much for me to bare.
Now I usually use  great northern  beans or navy beans when I make my ham and beans. But if you like another kind of beans that is fine. You can use any type of bean you like. Or you can use a mixture of different dry beans.
Just keep in mind that the smaller the bean the faster it will cook. So add your larger beans first and add the smaller beans after the bigger beans have been cooking for a hour or so.
1 left over Ham bone
1 onion
a handful of baby carrots or cut a couple of carrots into large pieces
Bay Leaves
Salt and pepper
1 to 1 1/2 pounds of dry great northern beans

Put your left over ham bone and any scraps of meat and fat that you have into a pot. Use a pot that will allow your ham bone to be covered with water. Sorry I don’t actually measure the water. I just fill the pot until the bone is covered.

Add the onion, carrots, bay leaves and about a teaspoon of pepper. At this point I don’t usually add salt because some hams are very salty. I wait until the very end of the cooking time to add salt if it is needed.

With the bay leaves I usually add about five small or two large. It’s really up to you if you like the flavor bay leaves brings to the party then add a couple extra. 

If your jar of dried bay leaves haven’t seen the light of day in a while you will need the extras. As with all spices they lose some of their flavor the older they are. Now if you are lucky enough to have a bay tree growing in your back yard you would only need one large bay leaf. Fresh bay leaves are much stronger then the dried ones. I did have a bay tree years ago and can tell the difference between fresh and dry.

Turn the stove up to medium high and put you pot on the burner..

Preparing your beans:

Pour your dried beans into a fine mesh strainer and rinse. Remove any stones and any beans that are discolored. Once your beans are nice and clean dump them into the pot, turn the heat up to high and get it to boiling.

Dry beans vs canned beans. I use canned beans all the time when I make my chicken soup or my veggie soup. This is not the time for canned beans. I have never made ham and beans with canned beans. Since the beans are cooked already by the time your ham and spices had flavored your soup the canned beans would be mush.

Your probably also wondering why I didn’t soak my beans over night. Well some people do that. I don’t.

You can skip the soaking part. You might have to cook your beans a lot longer this way but again you would lose out on tons of flavor from the ham because the beans are soft after they have soaked over night and they would be done cooking in less then half the time.

This way it takes about 3 hours from start to finish. What I do is start my beans in the morning about 10 and they are done by 1 or 1:30.

Bring the pot of beans and ham up to a full boil and let them boil for about thirty minutes. Turn the heat down just enough to keep a good boil going but not so much of a boil that the liquid is sputtering out of the pot all over your stove. You can put a lid on but leave a gap so some of the steam can escape. You want some of the water to evaporate as it cooks. Stir occasionally and cook it like this for about an hour. Stir and turn the heat down so your ham and beans are at a simmer. Continue to cook it like this until your beans are tender. You can add more pepper at this point and taste it to see if it needs any salt. By now the water has probably turned a nice creamy color from some of the beans cooking down.

As your beans are cooking the ham and bone are flavoring the liquid. The meat is getting tender and falling from the bone in chunks. When your beans are tender you can pull the bone from the pot. Use a big spoon to scrap the tender meat from the bone into the pot.

That’s all there is to it. You can make any type of bean you like this way. If you like split pea soup use dried peas. They will cook much faster then the great northern beans.

Bake up a loaf of Italian go with it.

Nothing tastes better with a pot of bean soup then fresh bread. If you want to serve the beans over rice. Cook it down longer so it isn’t so soupy and ladle the beans and ham chunks over a bowl of hot rice.

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  1. Ann says

    Like Peggy -my dad loved ham & bean soup, too. He also was the one to make it!

    I just purchased a spiral sliced ham (for lunch meats – honey bunny loves that) and he asked if I was going to save the bone for bean soup! Thanks for a timely post!

  2. Ashlee says

    I just stole one of the ham bones my grandma had from Christmas dinner. I have been craving ham and beans like crazy!

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