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Navy Bean and Ham Soup Recipe

Gordon loves cooking and experimenting with food. He loves making new dishes, particularly with unusual or underused ingredients.

Navy bean and ham soup, garnished with fresh parsley and served with crusty bread.

Navy bean and ham soup, garnished with fresh parsley and served with crusty bread.

Ham is a very popular ingredient with which to make soup. The bones are boiled long and slow to make a rich stock before any remaining meat is picked off for possible inclusion in the finished soup.

Ham bones for soup are known by a wide variety of names, not only in different countries, but sometimes in different geographical areas of the same country. Ham hocks, ham haughs and smoked or cured gammon joints are just a sample of the names employed. If in any doubt, be sure to ask for advice in-store, as purchasing a joint of pork by mistake will prove disastrous to your soup plans.

Note as well that navy beans are also widely known as haricot beans.

Ham Bones and Navy or Haricot Beans

Ham Bones and Navy or Haricot Beans

Cook Time

Prep timeCook timeReady inYields

14 hours

5 hours 30 min

19 hours 30 min

6 to 8 servings


  • 2 ham hocks
  • 1 pound navy (haricot) beans
  • 1 large white onion, peeled and quartered
  • 2 celery sticks, washed and roughly chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, washed and roughly chopped
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • Freshly chopped parsley to garnish
  • Fresh bread slices to serve
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Step 1: Steep the Ham Bones and Beans

  1. It is not absolutely essential to steep the ham hocks overnight, but if you don't, you risk your finished soup being overly salty. Even though the ham hocks in this recipe were steeped, the soup still did not require the addition of further salt.
  2. Put the ham hocks into a large bowl or even your soup pot. Pour in enough cold water to ensure they are comfortably covered. Put the bowl or pot into the bottom of your fridge and leave overnight.
  3. The dried navy beans require to be steeped in cold water for at least 12 hours, so steeping them overnight, just like the ham hocks, is a good idea. Put them into a bowl with plenty of cold water and cover.

Step 2: Make the Ham Stock

  1. The following day, drain the ham hocks and lay them in a large soup or stock pot. Add the chopped vegetables, black peppercorns and six pints of cold water.
  2. Put the pot on high heat until the water begins to boil. Put the lid on the pot and reduce the heat to achieve a gentle simmer for 2 hours.
  3. Most of the vegetables after this time will be floating on top of the water. Carefully lift them away with a large slotted spoon and discard.
  4. Take a carving fork and the slotted spoon and carefully lift the ham hocks one at a time to a plate. Cover and leave to cool.
  5. Put the lid back on the pot and leave for about an hour to partially cool.
  6. Line a large sieve with a couple of sheets of kitchen paper and suspend over a large bowl or basin. Pour the stock through it in stages. You will be left with perfect, pure ham stock.

Step 3: Boil the Navy Beans

  1. Wash the soup pot and pour the strained stock back into it.
  2. Use a ladle to remove approximately half the navy beans from the water (no need to be too fastidious) and drain them through a colander.
  3. Put the drained beans into the stock and bring to a rolling boil for 10 minutes.
  4. Reduce the heat to achieve a simmer, put the lid on the pot and cook for one hour.
  5. Switch the heat off under the soup pot and leave to cool for about an hour. Although technically the soup could be blended at this stage, blending very hot liquids can cause all sorts of problems, including causing the lid to fly off your food processor. This could cause scalding but will certainly at least create a considerable mess. It is much safer to leave it to partially cool.
  6. While the soup base is cooling, drain the remainder of the navy beans and put them into a separate large pot with enough cold water to ensure they are comfortably covered.
  7. Again, bring to a rolling boil for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 1 hour.

Step 4: Combine Ingredients to Finish Soup

  1. Carefully pick the meat from the ham hocks and break into small pieces for their eventual return to the soup.
  2. Continue to blend the partially cooled stock and beans in stages. Make sure it is perfectly smooth in each instance before pouring it into a large bowl.
  3. Return the blended liquid to the soup pot.
  4. Drain the navy beans that were cooking in water and add them to the soup along with the ham.
  5. Stir the soup well and bring back to a simmer for 10 minutes to ensure everything is heated through.
  6. Ladle the soup into bowls, garnish with the parsley and serve with fresh bread.

Can I Use Canned Navy Beans for Soup?

In theory, it is possible to use canned navy beans in this soup, a practice which eliminates the need for overnight steeping and significantly reduces the cooking time. The downside is that cooking the beans slowly in the ham stock ensures a greater infusion of flavour, and this cannot be replicated if using canned beans. If using canned navy beans, make sure you drain them and rinse them well in cold water before use.

© 2013 Gordon Hamilton

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