Growing up, my parents cooked most dinners at home. I remember very few meals that I didn’t like, but there are definitely a few meals that stood out as one of my favorites.
Pot of beans – or more commonly known as northern beans and ham soup – is one of them.
I confess, there was a several year gap while I was at college when I didn’t have much of anything resembling a home-cooked meal. So when I visited my mom one night and she cooked a pot of beans, it was like a rewind to my childhood.
And it was utterly amazing.
Just like I have my own memories, I want my kids to grow up and remember me making their favorite dishes. My daughter has grown VERY fond of tomato basil soup – or tomato sauce soup, as she affectionately calls it – and I love that she’s the first one to finish her bowl when it’s on the table.
My son is a little on the tricky side. He’s a HUGE fan of fruits and vegetables, but a bit peculiar with certain textures. However, he does like ham, so I’m hoping to win him over since the enormous flavor of a simple pot of beans comes from the fact that they cook all day with a smoked ham hock.
A short side note… Before you fellow momma’s start to think that I’ve got a trick up my sleeve to feed my kids beans without complaint, I don’t. It’s taken a few years of dedicated persistency before they realized that I’m not going to not ever serve them beans. So here’s a tip from the trenches: Just keep trying. Eventually they’ve cave!
My favorite part of northern beans and ham soup meal are the little pieces of ham that are hidden among the beans. It’s like finding a gem among a beach of grey rocks, and the more the merrier.
My second favorite part (yes, I have two), is that you can serve these over white rice OR cornbread. Either way are absolutely delicious, but each offer a unique flavor of their own to the meal. I personally tend to lean towards rice, but it’s fun to spice it up with a bit of cornbread too – especially if you already have cornmeal in the pantry (hint, hint).
My third favorite part (I told you I loved these beans!) is that it’s has a consistency of stew, which makes it thick and hearty and perfect for colder temperatures outside.
It also freezes very well, reheats even better and can be made without you even being home.
See? I told you it was amazing.
Just a heads up on the recipe, note that the beans should to be soaked, but not par-cooked. Par-cooking them will yield a soup texture instead of stew, which is fine if that’s what you prefer. But I like stew, and in order to get that, the beans need to literally cook with the ham hock and as they do, they’ll shed the outer coating which will break down into the stock and create a creamy, stew-y sauce.
- ½ pound dried northern beans, soaked overnight according to this method
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- ½ onion, diced
- 2 ribs celery, diced
- 2 medium carrots, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tsp Italian seasoning
- ¼ tsp thyme
- ¼ tsp sage
- 1 quart homemade chicken stock
- 1 ham hock (approx 2lbs)
- 1 cup chopped ham (optional, approx 1 ham steak)
- Drain soaking liquid from beans and set beans aside.
- In a skillet, heat olive oil over medium. Add onion, celery, carrot and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 3-5 minutes.
- Add cooked vegetables, beans and all other remaining ingredients to a slow cooker.
- Cook on low for 6-8 hours, until beans are cooked through.
- Serve over prepared white rice or cornbread.
Additional Recipe Notes
The sliced ham is completely optional, but it does make the dish (according to my childhood memories). Ham freezes well, so you can buy a little extra and freeze for later.
Although northern beans are typically a little more expensive than other beans (they run $2/lb in my area), they’re still very affordable and completely packed with important nutrients and protein.
- great northern beans: $1.00
- olive oil: $0.26
- celery: $0.20
- carrot: $.020
- garlic: $0.20
- Italian seasoning: $0.10
- thyme & sage: $.03
- chicken stock: FREE
- ham hock: $2.50
- chopped ham (optional): $2.00
Total cost for Northern Beans and Ham Soup: $6.49
If money is tight, skip the optional chopped ham and you can make this meal for $4.49!
By the way – You can thank my mom for the bulk of this recipe. She texted it to be my memory, and then I tweaked it a little bit (because I just can’t help myself). Nothing beats Mom’s pot of beans!