White bean soup, Navy bean soup, Senate bean soup, Yankee bean soup … Call it what you want. But it’s still bean soup and on a cold winter evening it will warm the chilliest of bones.
I grew up in a soup household. There was nothing my father, Peter Levine, would rather eat than a hearty bowl of soup. And nothing ranked higher on his list of favorites than bean soup.
When it came to soup, Mom was an excellent cook. You’ve already seen her chicken soup recipe as the first in this Soup’s On series. Unfortunately, she never left a bean soup recipe. So, I had to devise one out of my memory of the taste of hers and what I’ve eaten at restaurants through the years.
This recipe calls for Navy beans. They also are known as Boston beans, Yankee beans, white beans, or pea beans. They were a staple food for the U.S. Navy in earlier times, thus the name Navy Bean Soup. They cook quickly, so they are perfect for purees, soups, or stews, which don’t need the full bean in the final dish. For this soup you may substitute Great Northern beans or cannelloni beans.
The primary difference between this recipe and the actual Senate bean soup, which has been served in the famous U.S. Senate dining room for decades, is that the Senate version includes milk.
Two bowls of this soup makes a nice meal.
NAVY BEAN SOUP
1 lb. dried Navy beans
1 large, meaty smoked ham shank
3 medium russet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 large onion, chopped
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced carrot
2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
Soak the beans overnight in 2 quarts of water. The next day add 2 more quarts of water and the ham shank. Cover the pot; bring the water to a boil; reduce the heat and simmer for 2 hours. Add the potatoes, onions, celery, carrot and garlic. Simmer an additional hour. Remove the ham shank from the pot and set it aside to cool. Run the soup through a foley grinder, put it in a blender, or use an immersion blender to turn the whole thing into a nice thick soup. Put the pot of soup in the refrigerator overnight so the fat will congeal and can be skimmed off easily.
Strip the meat from the ham shank, cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
After skimming the fat from the soup, return the ham to the pot. Heat the whole thing and you’re ready to serve. Just add salt and pepper to taste. The ham will have given its saltiness to the soup, so you may not need to add any.
This makes about 4 quarts of soup. It can be frozen in individual portions.