Creamy Ham and Bean Broth is a luxe way to use up a leftover ham ~ I make a big pot of this wonderful chowder, it only gets better as it sits.
I sometimes look forward to the leftovers even more than the original dish during the holidays. I mean, what could be better than having a hunk of ham, with the flavorful bone attached, sitting in the fridge just waiting to be turned into something warm and comforting like this Creamy Ham and Bean Broth?
Ham soup is usually a once a year treat for me. I make it right after Christmas with the remains of our holiday ham. Truth be told I stash away some of the meat before the bone gets picked clean just for this type of soup.
TIP: Don’t have a leftover ham? No problem, use a ham shank or a ham hock from the butcher. If you use a hock, which doesn’t have much meat attached, you’ll need some extra ham for this soup. You can even use a thick slice from the deli counter.
This soup is based on a delicate ham broth that isn’t too strong or overpowering. I make it a little differently than usual ~ I cook the ham broth in one pot, and the dried beans in another. I’ll strain the ham broth after it’s simmered for about an hour and a half, and then add the cooked and drained beans. A little bit of heavy cream, some seasonings, and a nice shower of fresh thyme completes it.
Did you know dried beans are a super food? They’re a great meat substitute and we should all be eating more of them.
I love beans, and there are always a ton of different varieties in my cupboard. I like to make this soup with lots of different shapes and colors, which makes it taste great, and look pretty, too. I’m comfortable cooking them together, even though some will become tender before others ~ that just gives a little variety of texture ~ some will be firm, and others will be completely soft. I salt the water (it’s a myth that it makes the beans tough) and I always use bay leaves, I love the flavor they impart to the beans.
TIp: There are several ways to cook dried beans ~ you can dump them in the slow cooker, cover with cold water, and let them simmer away for several hours. You can soak them overnight, then cook them on the stove the next day. Or, like I do, you can cover them with water, bring to a boil, and set them aside for an hour. Then drain, cover with fresh water, and cook until tender. Any way you do it, dried beans take a bit of time, but they’re so worth it!
TIP: I cook black beans separately because they tend to color the other beans an unappetizing grey. And if you want to use lentils, add them later in the process because they cook much quicker than other beans.
This is a very simple soup, with a clean and light taste. In fact I debated whether to include the world ‘creamy’ in the title at all because it’s not heavy or thick like traditional cream or bean soups, it has more of a brothy texture. The ham gives it a unique flavor, and the whole thing is just lovely.
- 2 cups mixed dried beans (I used a mix of red, pink, white, lima, black, chick pea, black eyed pea, and heirloom varieties)
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 bay leaves
- leftover hambone, with most of the meat removed, shredded or chopped, and set aside
- 2 bay leaves
- 10 whole peppercorns
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 cups cooked ham, shredded or chopped
- fresh thyme leaves
- salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste
- Rinse the beans and put them in a large pot. Cover with several inches of cold water, add the salt and bay leaves, and bring to a boil. Boil for 2 minutes, then turn off the heat, cover, and let sit for an hour.
- Drain the beans, put back in the pot, (along with the bay leaves) and cover with several inches of cold water. Bring the beans to a boil and cook gently until they are just tender. This can take anywhere from 1 to 2+ hours, depending on your beans. Add more water as necessary. Try to retain some texture in the beans, don't let them get mushy. Drain.
- Meanwhile, put the ham in a large stock pot and add 10 cups of cold water. Throw in the bay leaves and peppercorns, and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down, cover, and cook for 90 minutes. Check to see that the broth is simmering, not boiling furiously.
- Strain the broth and discard the solids. Return the broth to a clean pot.
- Add the cooked and drained beans to the ham broth, along with the cream, the reserved ham, and 3 tablespoons of fresh thyme leaves. Bring up to a simmer, and season with salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste.
- Serve hot with extra thyme leaves.
- The flavor of this soup improves over time, so feel free to make it ahead.
- You could, if absolutely necessary, use canned beans for this soup, but you would lose some great flavor and texture.
- You could add some grated Parmesan cheese to the soup as you serve it, if you like.