Three days after Easter, and you’re still eating leftover ham? What are you going to do with it all? And what can you make with that leftover ham bone?
My personal history of bean soup
Well, if you were growing up with me in my household, more specifically if you were my father, you would use the ham hock to make a satisfying and nourishing bean soup, dicing some of the leftover ham into it as well. Or, if you really want to finish off the ham, you would make the soup large enough to accommodate all of it.
And again, if you were my father, the basic ingredients would be the same each time, but it would always taste a little different, with the newest version receiving the accolades of, “I think this is the best one that I have made.” And it usually was.
If there was leftover soup, and there usually was, it became baked beans and/or frozen soup.
And Bean Soup with Thomas Jefferson
Now, if you were Thomas Jefferson, you would have a different bean soup, because he was primarily vegetarian. But I would take this recipe and add that ham hock to it since there are leftovers to use up!
Why Thomas Jefferson? He was noteworthy in the history of American food. His gardens were extensive and contained many unique and exotic fruits and vegetables, which he used in creative ways. From his time in France as Minister from 1785-1789, he learned French cuisine and cooking methods, which he put to good use throwing fine lavish dinner parties. This, of course, helped to shape what the country would come to consider fine dining. He is probably the source of the fondness of French food in the USA.
Specifically, he learned and used the classic French cooking practice on how to make soup for his white bean soup.
Below I will share both my personal history recipe from my father and then the more formal recipe with history from Thomas Recipe. The first is easy, and the second has a few more steps and refinement. It’s the casual versus the formal day!
Recipe of my father’s bean soup – feel free to modify to your own taste. He did!
1 bag of white navy beans
(baking soda optional)
1 -2 onions, diced
1 – 2 carrot, diced
1-2 stalks of celery (including leaves), diced
1 ham hock and diced ham
Salt and pepper to taste
- Soak beans overnight in large pot so they are well covered with water. Add 1 tbsp of baking soda.
- Drain and rinse in the morning, discarding any bad-looking beans.
- Put ham hock into a large pot, surround with vegetables and diced ham.
- Add enough water to the pot to cover the ham hock.
- Add salt and pepper.
- Bring to almost boil and reduce heat to simmer.
- Cook several hours, stirring once in a while.
- Remove ham hock, adding any bits of ham back into the soup.
- With a hand-held, old-fashioned potato masher, mash the beans until you have a somewhat smooth consistency but also leaving some beans somewhat whole.
- Serve, with bread.
Recipe for Thomas Jefferson’s White Bean Soup:
1 1/2 lbs dried navy, Great Northern, or cannellini beans (4 cups)
16 cups water (4 quarts)
Salt and pepper
2 large carrots, trimmed, peeled and diced
2 small turnips, trimmed, peeled and diced
1 medium parsnip, trimmed, peeled and diced
3 large ribs of celery with leafy green tops, chopped
2-3 tbsp unsalted butter
4 slices rustic artisan bread, sliced 1/2 inch thick
- Rinse and sort the beans, removing any stones or impurities. Drain the beans and put them in a large bowl, then cover by a few inches of cold water. Soak the beans overnight.
- Drain the beans.
- Put the beans in a large pot or 6-quart Dutch oven. Cover with 4 quarts of water and bring slowly to a simmer over medium heat, skimming any scum that rises to the surface. Simmer gently until the beans are tender, about 1 hour. Replenish the liquid with additional water as needed.
- Season the mixture with salt and pepper. Add the diced carrots and turnips and simmer until tender, about 15 minutes. Add the parsnip and continue to simmer until all of the vegetables and beans are quite soft, 15-30 minutes longer. Taste the soup and adjust seasoning, adding more salt or pepper to taste, if desired.
- Pass the soup through a food mill to puree or use an immersion blend to blend the soup till it reaches the desired texture. In Jefferson’s time, it would have been passed through a sieve to make a very smooth and light puree, but it is a very time-consuming process for a large batch of soup like this. The food mill will create the most authentic texture in a short amount of time.
- Add the chopped celery ribs to the puree and simmer gently for 15 minutes more. If the soup is too thick, thin it with more simmering water.
- Butter the bread slices and toast them in a skillet on medium heat, turning frequently, until golden. To make the dish pareve or vegan, use dairy-free bread and rub the bread lightly with olive oil instead of butter before browning.
- Cut the toasted slices into bite-sized pieces and divide them among 8 warm bowls.
- Ladle the soup over the toasted bread cubes. Serve hot.