A Ham Bone and Some Beans

This is what I started with, a shank bone from the Christmas ham and a package of beans, resulting in a pot of Mom’s bean soup. She made it on Saturdays and served it for dinner and subsequent lunches, generally for Dad because her children didn’t like it. Or they did but not until their taste buds matured many many years later.

I call my sister Sue to figure out the recipe. “Worcestershire sauce and dry mustard. And don’t forget the ketchup.”

She is very specific about how much ketchup. The exact measurement she gives is “plops.”

“It’s called Senator soup,” she says which, after the week we’ve had, seems horrifically ironic that I planned the soup days before.

I look it up. There are two different recipes from what should be the definitive source–www.senate.gov. Another unsettling historical detail–each recipe is attributed to Republicans.

The Famous Senate Restaurant Bean Soup Recipe

Serves 8.

(Minnesota Senator, Knute Nelson [1895-1923] and, from all indications, quite a character.)

2 pounds dried navy beans
4 quarts hot water
1 1/2 pounds smoked ham hocks
1 onion, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
salt and pepper to taste

Wash the navy beans and run hot water through them until they are slightly whitened. Place beans into pot with hot water. Add ham hocks and simmer approximately three hours in a covered pot, stirring occasionally. Remove ham hocks and set aside to cool. Dice meat and return to soup. Lightly brown the onion in butter. Add to soup. Before serving, bring to a boil and season with salt and pepper.

Bean Soup Recipe

Makes 5 gallons.

(Idaho Senator Fred Dubois [1891-1897/1901-1907], who went from being a Republican to a Silver Republican, then ended up as a Democrat and, through it all, no friend of the Mormon religion. Coming from Idaho, his recipe incorporates mashed potatoes.)

3 pounds dried navy beans
2 pounds of ham and a ham bone
1 quart mashed potatoes
5 onions, chopped
2 stalks of celery, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
half a bunch of parsley, chopped

Clean the beans, then cook them dry. Add ham, bone, and water and bring to a boil. Add potatoes and mix thoroughly. Add chopped vegetables and bring to a boil. Simmer for one hour before serving.

Neither are close to Mom’s recipe–a very rare incident of my sister being wrong.

Mom’s Ham and Bean Soup

Serves a family of 4 with enough left over for lunches

1 16 ounce package of dry navy beans or two cans of white beans, any variety will do
2 tablespoons butter
4 stalks chopped celery
2 large carrots, scraped clean and chopped
1 meaty ham bone
3 quarts water
1 bottle of ketchup
several shakes of Worcestershire sauce
about 2 tablespoons dry mustard, or to taste
several teaspoons of garlic powder, or to taste
salt and pepper to taste
chopped leftover ham
hot sauce (optional)

If using dry beans soak overnight, drain, then cover them with water in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil then slower to a simmer and cook for about an hour or until tender. Drain and set aside.

If using canned beans, drain, rinse, and set aside.

Melt the butter in a large stock pot and sauté the vegetables until the onions are soft. Place the ham bone over them, pour in the beans and the water. Bring to a simmer. Plop in about half a bottle of ketchup, followed by Worcestershire sauce, mustard, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Correct the seasoning to your personal taste. Be careful of adding too much salt if the ham is cured.

Cook slowly for about 2 hours, stirring every now and then. Taste throughout to make sure it’s flavorful. Remove bone and cut away any meat still clinging to it. Add additional ham.

If you wish, serve with hot sauce along with bread and butter.

My Revisions

I follow Mom’s recipe with 3 exceptions:

Substitute the garlic powder with 3 chopped cloves. 1 tablespoon of smoked paprika–or more if you like–adds a nice kick.

Make a stock with the bone the day before. Refrigerate overnight without removing the bone or straining. The fat will congeal on top so you can easily degrease the stock before finishing the soup.

I sometimes add root vegetables such as parsnip or beets.

Serve with toasted cheese bread.

For this post, in a nod to Senator Dubois and his mashed potatoes, I added gnocchi. They worked out pretty good.