I’ve only been dying to share this recipe with you for more than one million minutes.

The Best Old-Fashioned Bean Soup I howsweeteats.com

Seriously. DYING. No exaggeration. I mean, I am not a dramatic person or anything.

And it’s not even because of the RECIPE. It’s because of so much more. This soup encompasses the entire reason I started this blog… to tell you about my short  little legally blind and deaf, fluffy haired, housecoat wearing Betty White-esque grandmother.

Mother Lovett made the bean soup of all bean soups. It was my mom’s favorite comfort food (besides cake for breakfast) and while it took me a few years to get on board, when I did I fell off the ledge. IN LOVE.

So when I started this blog, her soup was #1 on my list to share because it was just SO GOOD. Definitely caps lock worthy. But… but what’s that you say? It’s been nearly 30 months and no bean soup has been shared? Well… I was afraid to buy a ham.

For real. I was afraid to buy ham with a bone inside it. Two years ago my mom warned me that it might be difficult to find in our local grocery store, and that I should probably talk to the butcher. Um… what? I don’t even like to call for pizza. I’m the world’s biggest procrastinator. I can’t talk to a stranger, especially about something I’m completely unfamiliar with. Because here’s a secret: I hate ham. Good news: if you hate ham, you will probably like the soup. I swear.

And P.S. if you’re wondering if I could ever survive in the real world, the answer is no.

The Best Old-Fashioned Bean Soup I howsweeteats.com

Two winters have since passed and I finally begged my mom take me to the store and do my dirty work because I am still a (very immature) child. Guts… I have none. I excitedly left with an armful of bone-in ham (hahahaha) after having to speak to no one and then my mom recited the recipe to me from heart since it wasn’t written down ANYWHERE. I was skeptical about the beans because Mother Lovett never soaked them and pretty much cooked this soup all.day.long.  Yes… this is like an 8-hour soup. I know that’s far from practical and makes you start to seize, but I wanted to make this soup as authentically as possible. I did exactly what Mother Lovett did. My house smelled incredible. An electrician was here halfway through and I think I saw him leave with drool on his chin.

Oh but what I didn’t do was stick hot pink rollers in my hair after washing it in the sink.

I might do that tonight though.

Anyway. The soup was perfect – exactly as I remembered and delicious even for this ham-hater. I forced it down the throats of many other family members who delivered the same response – “tastes just like Mother Lovett’s!”

The Best Old-Fashioned Bean Soup I howsweeteats.com

Fast forward 24 hours to a very late dinner and three empty bottles of wine, my mom and I tell my aunt that I successfully made enough bean soup to feed a small country. She recalls her memories of Mother Lovett prepping for bean soup day, adding in “…and the day before, she soaked the beans…”

UHHHH WHAT THE WHAT? My mom swears she didn’t soak the beans. My aunt, her only other child, swears she did soak the beans. The remaining restaurant patrons (I say remaining because at this point, let’s be honest… it’s like 1AM and everyone’s toasted) hate our guts because of the obnoxious, copious wine consumption and a 45-minute argument over bean-soaking at a decibel loud enough to beat out Mariah’s 1995 soprano pitch.

That was three weeks ago… and they are still arguing. Loudly. I dunno people. I didn’t soak the beans. I don’t think she soaked the beans. Somewhere my aunt is seething, screaming SHE SOAKED THE DAMN BEANS!

Still, the soup was comfort in a bowl. Like a big hug from Mother Lovett that left you feeling all warm and gooey inside but didn’t leave you sparkling from her Ciara perfumed lotion.

It was everything I wanted. Well, almost.  

The Best Old-Fashioned Bean Soup I howsweeteats.com

Mother Lovett’s Bean Soup

makes a GIANT pot, at least 12 servings

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 large sweet onion, chopped

3 cloves of garlic, minced

64 ounces of low-sodium stock

32 ounces of water

1 pound dry navy beans

3-3 1/2 pound ham with bone in

2 pounds of potatoes (yukon gold or idaho), peeled and cubed

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Dump beans into a bowl, cover with water and rinse well, finishing with a rinse in a colander. Set aside.

Heat a very large stock pot over medium-low heat and add olive oil. Add onion and cook for 4-5 minutes until soft, then add in garlic and cook for 30 seconds more until fragrant. Throw in ham and beans, then add in chicken stock and water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, then cover and let cook for 4 hours.

After 4 hours, add the potatoes, cover again and cook for 2-3 hours more, stirring occasionally. Towards the end, the potatoes should break down causing the soup to become starchy. The ham should also fall right off the bone – remove the bone before serving and shred any ham chunks with forks. Season with salt and more pepper if desired – I found that I did not need to add any salt given the ham + chicken stock, so taste first. Serve hot! I store huge containers of this in the freezer for up to 6 months. Yum yum.

Note: I have not tried this in the crockpot, but I am pretty sure that it would work if the beans are rinsed, then the whole mixture (including the potatoes) are cooked for 8-12 hours. Additionally, you can use canned beans (rinse and drain), cut the ham into pieces and cook the soup for a shorter time – perhaps 1-2 hours (depending on how tender you want your ham. haha.).

The Best Old-Fashioned Bean Soup I howsweeteats.com

The end.

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148 Responses to “Mother Lovett’s Bean Soup.”

  1. #
    Ali @ Peaches and Football — February 8, 2012 @ 8:08 am

    Ha ha – I love it when family members try and remember and everyone has a different opinion but insists they are right. Soup is such a comfort food – especially in the winter. I love good, flavorful soup recipes and this looks perfect!


  2. #
    Erika - The Teenage Taste — February 8, 2012 @ 8:09 am

    Oh this sounds absolutely fabulous! Mother Lovett sure knew her food! :-D


  3. #
    Jennifer@Peanut Butter and Peppers — February 8, 2012 @ 8:12 am

    The soup looks wonderful!! I love soup this time of year, served with some warm crusty bread!! Hmm, I never used dried beans, to lazy! :) Have a great day!!


  4. #
    Kathryn — February 8, 2012 @ 8:24 am

    Only families can carry on such an argument. I spent half an hour arguing loudly with my mother at the weekend about whether their house had a back door or a front door. Good times.

    Beans and ham all in a warming winter soup sounds so good to me right now!


  5. #
    Brooke @ My Little Thermomix — February 8, 2012 @ 8:28 am

    Can’t wait to try it! Brilliantly written, as per usual.


  6. #
    Stacy — February 8, 2012 @ 8:28 am

    If she cooked this all day and soaked the beans the beans would be mush. I don’t think she soaked the beans. We always add about 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda to cut down on all the gas. That was a staple for any beans at my moms house.Thanks for sharing I can’t wait to try this!


    • Jessica — February 8th, 2012 @ 8:46 am

      Never heard of that! Interesting!


  7. #
    The Mrs @ Success Along the Weigh — February 8, 2012 @ 8:30 am

    I just ran across my Ciara sparkly perfumed lotion 2 weeks ago and couldn’t bring myself to throw it out! Love that smell but my nose/allergies beg to differ.

    Looks great regardless of the great bean soak debate!


  8. #
    Becki's Whole Life — February 8, 2012 @ 8:38 am

    Well, if you are telling me that you didn’t soak the beans I am going with it! My mom made bean soup at Christmas and everyone loved it. I love that this recipe uses potatoes, too…..and navy beans are my fav.

    My logic on this argument is that maybe she sometimes soaked them and sometimes she didn’t? I mean, it would probably be unusual for your mom to think she didn’t soak them without Mother Lovett saying it at some point (since it is out of the norm)..ya know? So maybe they are both right:-)


    • Jessica — February 8th, 2012 @ 8:45 am

      I think the same – I think there were probably a handful of times that Mother Lovett didn’t have the time to cook the soup all day, so she soaked the beans which made it go quicker… which is what my aunt remembers. And my mom remembers her never soaking them and cooking the soup forever. Ha!


  9. #
    Megan — February 8, 2012 @ 8:40 am

    Your ham jokes had me giggling! I hate ham/pork (sorry bacon!)

    Would a vegetarian option work?


    • Jessica — February 8th, 2012 @ 8:44 am

      Hmmm I’m honestly not sure what vegetarian option (if any) would work here, because the ham is pretty essential to the flavor. If you think of something let me know!


  10. #
    Gen — February 8, 2012 @ 8:42 am

    Yum!!! I love pretty much all soup….and this looks delicious!


  11. #
    Christina @ This Woman Cooks! — February 8, 2012 @ 8:44 am

    I hate talking to strangers too- I’ve never spoken to a butcher!


  12. #
    Bev Weidner — February 8, 2012 @ 8:44 am

    Heheheh, you said “bone-in.” Heheheheh.


  13. #
    Katrina — February 8, 2012 @ 8:48 am

    Mother Lovett has the best recipes!! This one is fab.


  14. #
    Heather (Heather's Dish) — February 8, 2012 @ 8:52 am

    love the argument about soaking the damn beans…really, with all that ham, who cares? just feed me already!


  15. #
    Aimee @ ShugarySweets — February 8, 2012 @ 8:54 am

    Thats an awesome story! My family would continue an argument about that for years. And probably start hunting through every single picture/recipe to find PROOF of their point.
    Meanwhile, I would just be slurping soup and saying “success.”


  16. #
    Angela @ Eat Spin Run Repeat — February 8, 2012 @ 8:55 am

    I can’t believe you waited 30 months to finally share this, but I totally understand now because I can’t say I’ve ever purchased a ham either!! I love the bean story!


  17. #
    kathleen @ the daily crumb — February 8, 2012 @ 8:56 am

    mmmm if it’s a mother lovett recipe it must be delicious!! thanks for sharing :)


  18. #
    Marisa — February 8, 2012 @ 8:58 am

    Love bean soup. Think you can use ham hocks/shanks in this…I think they would add a smokey flavor…


    • Jessica — February 8th, 2012 @ 9:12 am

      Yes definitely! I’m pretty sure sometimes she used a ham hock.


  19. #
    heather — February 8, 2012 @ 8:59 am

    This is a treasure! Sharing family recipes is a majorly big deal in my book. Mother Lovett’s recipe reminds me of a bean soup that my grandmother made, but without the potatoes. I cannot WAIT to make this! Thank you for sharing Jessica. I just love you. For reals. xxoo


  20. #
    chelsey @ clean eating chelsey — February 8, 2012 @ 9:11 am

    I’m that lame reader who actually calculated how many days a millions minutes was – it’s 641. That is almost two years. You’ve done well.


    • Jessica — February 8th, 2012 @ 9:12 am

      Ha! not as lame as me who calculated it last night just to make sure I had the correct amount of minutes for the years spent blogging.


  21. #
    Blog is the New Black — February 8, 2012 @ 9:25 am

    Love this recipe and I LOVE your ML stories!


  22. #
    Jessica @ Stylish Stealthy and Healthy — February 8, 2012 @ 9:25 am

    I love family recipes like this. And I actually think it’s required that for it to be considered a “family recipe” that there be at least one ingredient/instruction that no less than 3 people can’t agree upon.


  23. #
    Amanda — February 8, 2012 @ 9:28 am

    So. I am not a fan of pork either. At all. Not ham. Not pork chops… and not really bacon. I know, I’m a freak and I’ll accept that. I’m also not really a fan of beans. However, I need to make this. It looks delicious and I’m pretty sure my husband would want to marry me again if I did.


  24. #
    Emilie @ Emilie's Enjoyables — February 8, 2012 @ 9:29 am

    Totally with you on the whole not even calling for pizza thing. I’m 25 and I still make my mom call and schedule my hair appointments. HA.


  25. #
    Lauren at Keep It Sweet — February 8, 2012 @ 9:31 am

    I can completely picture you and your family sitting post-dinner and arguing over the bean soaking, love it. I am a huge fan of bean soup and would love this!


  26. #
    Chelsy — February 8, 2012 @ 9:36 am

    Damnnnnn Jessica! That soup looks out of this world amazing! I feel you on the procrastination thing, all my life I have dreamt about preparing a Julia Child worthy dinner for my family, you know the Beef bourgen…have ever you spell it but seriously, I am super scared to do all that prep work. It gives me anxiety, same thing for roasted chicken. O my lanta. No time for that! Maybe I will suck it up and take my momma to the store with me to help!


    • Jessica — February 8th, 2012 @ 11:38 am

      Oh girl, you NEED to make that. It is so delicious and so so so worth it.


      • Chelsy — February 8th, 2012 @ 11:41 am

        I am on it asap!

  27. #
    Em — February 8, 2012 @ 9:46 am

    That looks divine!!!! And, yes, I am exactly the same way-hate talking to strangers, hate ordering pizza (though since we’ve moved to the ‘ru-ral’ area,……..pizza won’t deliver to us anyway!), etc. I had to talk to the butcher at the grocery store 1x,……made me feel like I total idiot….haha. It was about ham too!
    My boyfriend swears by the ‘meat market’ though, and you have to talk to them to tell them what you want and they cut it for you fresh right there,……….needless to say, I haven’t gone. yet.
    Love the post! :)


  28. #
    Rachel — February 8, 2012 @ 9:51 am

    This soup looks especially tasty on a cold Winter day like today!

    PS – I am obsessed with your storytelling, please write a book ASAP so I can go to your book signing and tell you how awesome you are.


  29. #
    Sommer J — February 8, 2012 @ 9:52 am

    Loved the story! I can not believe that you hate ham! This soup looks so damn good. I believe I can get my soup hating son aboard on this as he loves beans and ham! I’d be more than happy to chat up the butcher for you. I talk to anyone, yet, I am quiet….yeah, I am a weirdo. So happy you got the ham and got you grandmother’s soup perfectly and thank you for sharing!


  30. #
    Maria — February 8, 2012 @ 9:52 am

    Comforting soup! Perfect for a cold day-like today!


  31. #
    Cookbook Queen — February 8, 2012 @ 9:56 am

    You HATE HAM?!?!?!?!?

    But…but…it’s like a meatier bacon?? No eggs with ham? No grilled ham and cheese sandwich? What?!

    I will say though, that there is a butcher in town I have been dying to go to, but have avoided because I don’t know how to order from him and I feel awkward.

    I guess you and I really weren’t meant to be adults.

    The soup looks fab, I LOVE a good bean soup and this sounds perfect!! And congratulations on your Bloggy nomination girl!! So proud to know you and you totally deserve to win.

    Also…she probably soaked the beans ;)


    • Jessica — February 8th, 2012 @ 11:38 am

      Thank you so much – you are the bestest! That means a lot to me. :) And also… I think I just hate actual ham from a ham. I don’t mind chipped ham (every now and then) and um… actually I’d like a grilled ham and cheese right now for lunch. Come make me one please?


  32. #
    lacy — February 8, 2012 @ 10:00 am

    THIS SOUP TASTED LIKE VELVET! And ML, but not in a cannibalistic type of way!

    I miss her Dune musk!


  33. #
    Carrie @ Kiss My Whisk — February 8, 2012 @ 10:04 am

    This looks heavenly! Definitely going on my to make list.


  34. #
    Joelle (On A Pink Typewriter) — February 8, 2012 @ 10:17 am

    Aw I always enjoy your enthusiasm at sharing Mother Lovett’s recipes!


  35. #
    Elizabeth @ the kitchen counsel — February 8, 2012 @ 10:19 am

    i don’t like ham either, but my family does! i’ll definitely have to make this soup the next time i’m home.

    your family fighting sounds like my family fighting over memories–and everyone is always right, of course!


  36. #
    Mary F — February 8, 2012 @ 10:20 am

    So glad you posted this. One of my fondest memories of my childhood was eating my Grandmother’s White Beans and Ham on her farm in Northern Idaho. I would always go home with a quart jar of them for further enjoyment. To this day, I do not know how she made them, and it is more than 30 years that she has been gone. We need to be sure to get recipes from our relatives while we can…don’t wait until they are just a fond memory. Make a family cookbook…gather recipes together and share while you are able to get them..even if that one Aunt won’t give up all her ingredients!! At least you have a starting point. I will try your recipe to see if it is close to my Grandma Harriet’s. Thanks!


  37. #
    Gabby @ Gabby's Gluten-Free — February 8, 2012 @ 10:21 am

    This sounds delicious! Definitely have to make this soon?


  38. #
    Mansee — February 8, 2012 @ 10:23 am

    I love family recipes! This sounds so amazing. My mom and I always argue about recipes because we both have a bad habit of not writing things down, so when we go to make something again we can’t remember what made it so good the first time. You think I’d learn from her mistakes…but not so much.


  39. #
    Liz @ Tip Top Shape — February 8, 2012 @ 10:23 am

    The butcher terrifies me, too!! I just know absolutely nothing about meat or cuts of meat. I get that it’s there job to know all of that, but I feel like I just look like a big dum-dum when I go and ask questions. Anyhoo, this soup looks amazingggg!!


  40. #
    Shea — February 8, 2012 @ 10:38 am

    That makes me want a big old bowl of that right now….at 8:40 a.m. It is around 35 outside and just looking at those pictures make me feel warm inside. Thank you so much for sharing.


  41. #
    DessertForTwo — February 8, 2012 @ 10:40 am

    I so love when you make Mother Lovett’s recipes.
    I think that sometimes she soaked the beans (when she remembered), but sometimes she didn’t. I think it’s a win-win.


  42. #
    rose — February 8, 2012 @ 10:50 am

    I love grandma food and grandma stories.. i love grandmas so much. I also hate ham, but this looks so yummy.. my granny used to make poached pears with red wine and cloves and serve with ice cream.. which may sound nasty, even Sounds gross to me, but was sooo amazing and i keep meaning to make it but also haven’t gotten around to it!
    she also made the Best salad dressing, which she used egg yolk in, and its just not the same when we re-make it sans salmonella…
    she also thought street hot dogs were Divine (i introduced her to them) and we would go for a special treat.. like up there with a lobster dinner or something lol. excuse my rant. i love all things grandma :)


    • Jessica — February 8th, 2012 @ 11:33 am

      Rose! That does not sound nasty at all. It sounds absolutely INCREDIBLE.


  43. #
    Gina @ Running to the Kitchen — February 8, 2012 @ 10:52 am

    I loved this post. Probably because your family at dinner is exactly what my loud, obnoxious Italian family is like ANYWHERE we go. Grandpa screaming “that son of a bitch (in reference to anyone he’s speaking about, apparently it’s a term of endearment to him) at such a volume that I usually want to hide under the table.
    And the butcher thing…I’m terrified of the butcher! You’re not alone.


    • Jessica — February 8th, 2012 @ 11:32 am

      Are we sisters? Oh wait, but I’m Irish. Also… I think I’m afraid of the butcher because of all the big knives! Like I will say something wrong and he will slaughter me.


  44. #
    Ashley — February 8, 2012 @ 11:03 am

    I loved every sentence of this post! I also have always hated ham and also hate calling to order takeout!


  45. #
    mags — February 8, 2012 @ 11:36 am

    You are too hilarious girl. I love bean soup, but I love you more. (ALWAYS soak the beans)


  46. #
    Christina — February 8, 2012 @ 11:45 am

    I love how you were afraid to speak to the butcher. That’s so our generation! I completely understand. If they were to ask me 1 question to clarify what I wanted, I would look like an idiot trying to answer.


  47. #
    willa anderson — February 8, 2012 @ 11:46 am

    My mom (who would have been 96 this year) NEVER soaked the beans…said they would break down too much, and she liked them more whole. I bet that GL didn’t soak her beans, either. Those gals didn’t come from an era of speed cooking!


  48. #
    Jen Marie — February 8, 2012 @ 12:06 pm

    Maybe when she had to cook it faster, she soaked the beans, so they both have a memory of her doing it differently? dunno

    I think it looks wonderful, and I LOVE ham! :)


  49. #
    CouponClippingCook — February 8, 2012 @ 12:11 pm

    Reminds me of a dish my grandmother used to make that I loved. Real comfort food. Looks delicious.


  50. #
    Allie@sweetpotatobites — February 8, 2012 @ 12:17 pm

    love the story behind the soup, love the ingredients in the soup, love it all.


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