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. #
    Hallie — February 8, 2012 @ 12:17 pm

    That is EXACTLY like my Nana’s bean soup! Also my favorite comfort food next to her meatloaf. And my poor sister has still never jumped on the bean soup bandwagon. I have been dying to make it and the only reason I haven’t is the same as yours… I’m scared to go buy the ham hock.


  2. #
    Hilliary @Happily Ever Healthy — February 8, 2012 @ 12:19 pm

    Oh this looks yummy, I may even get my bean hating boyfriend to eat this soup!


  3. #
    Averie @ Love Veggies and Yoga — February 8, 2012 @ 12:45 pm

    The bean soup looks great but what I really want is that blue colander. It’s gorgeous! I have colander envy :)


  4. #
    Laura — February 8, 2012 @ 1:05 pm

    I agree with Averie, LOVE the colander! As for the soup, I think I may need to make this on Saturday. Looks Amazing! My kids love beans so I am sure this will be a real winner in my home. Thanks!


  5. #
    Katie — February 8, 2012 @ 1:11 pm

    I love bean soup with all of my soul!! It unfortunately tears my inside to shreds…but I’ll probably make this and eat it anyway because it looks so gosh darn good.


  6. #
    Michelle — February 8, 2012 @ 1:23 pm

    Such lovely comfort food!


  7. #
    meghan — February 8, 2012 @ 1:26 pm

    this is going to be the stupidest question EVER, but the ham comes…pre-cooked from the butcher? or no? i tried making hamhock soup the other day and i’m pretty sure i gave my boyfriend and i food poisoning from it, so i’m kinda scraed to try again! does the ham cook through during the boiling and stewing process or is it already cooked? soo embarrassed to even ask.


  8. #
    Julie — February 8, 2012 @ 1:54 pm

    Beans, beans……..
    not everybody does em’ but everybody should!!!


  9. #
    Ashley M — February 8, 2012 @ 1:56 pm

    I will be making this ASAP! I love beans… I love ham… And I love soup. This will be the best thing EVER. ;)


  10. #
    Rachel @ Baked by Rachel — February 8, 2012 @ 2:01 pm

    Love the recipe. I’m always looking for new soup recipes to add to the collection. BTW I’m totally obsessed with your strainer/collander.


  11. #
    Lyss — February 8, 2012 @ 2:56 pm

    I hate ham too, but this soup looks so incredibly delicious! I’d love to try it out in a crockpot.


  12. #
    Kim in MD — February 8, 2012 @ 2:59 pm

    I love this post and Mother Lovett stories! Whether or not to soak the beans? Soaking the beans reduces the cooking time for sure, and if you pour out the soaking liquid you reduce the complex sugars (which causes gas in some people) by sixty percent. So, if time (and/or gas) is an issue, soak the beans overnight. Personally, I love the idea of a simmering pot of soup on the stove all day…especially on a snowy day like today! I’m not a huge ham lover, but I do love navy bean soup. I can’t wait to try this recipe, Jessica. Thank you for sharing your family stories and great recipes with us!


  13. #
    Amanda @ Once Upon a Recipe — February 8, 2012 @ 3:05 pm

    This looks SO good. Total comfort food. I can’t wait to try making this soup on a lazy Sunday and have it simmer on the stove all day. Maybe I’ll also do the hot pink roller thing. You know, for authenticity.


  14. #
    Sarah @ The Cyclist's Wife — February 8, 2012 @ 3:39 pm

    Oh my gosh, I’m dying at your fear of purchasing a bone in ham. I am totally afraid of buying meat too! I had a recipe that called for pork butt recently and it was all I had to not die in a fit of giggles when I asked for it (because I’m totally mature at 30+). Glad you got your ham-bone!! :)


  15. #
    Tracy — February 8, 2012 @ 3:42 pm

    You know, I am not a huge ham fan either, but I would totally make this soup…soaked beans or not. ;-)


  16. #
    Kelly — February 8, 2012 @ 4:30 pm

    This looks amazing and I’m in LOVE with your colander!! :)


  17. #
    Stacey! — February 8, 2012 @ 4:46 pm

    Oh, how I love Mother Lovett stories. She sounds so much like my Mimi, who I miss every single day. We were fortunate to have her live with us for about a year before she passed away. My love of all things booze-y and Blue Bell Banana Pudding Ice Cream are 100% genetic gifts from her. I need it to be cold here so I can make this soup! Also, inappropriate ham comments to my butcher!


  18. #
    Alysha @shesontherun — February 8, 2012 @ 4:49 pm

    Am I the only one who’s loving that blue collander? I’m a sucker for cute kitchen things!


  19. #
    Andrea — February 8, 2012 @ 5:00 pm

    I made the most terrible, bland, boring soup last night and need to make this to make up for it! How much does a bone-in ham cost?


  20. #
    Tickled Red — February 8, 2012 @ 5:37 pm

    Oh my that looks scrumptious. Definitely going to give Mother Lovetts soup a try :D


  21. #
    Hotly Spiced — February 8, 2012 @ 7:22 pm

    Hi, Sheri from Donuts, Dresses and Dirt introduced me to your blog. What great writing. Very funny. And I love that soup. It really would be the most amazing comfort food. As for me, I probably would soak the beans to speed up the cooking process but, I don’t wish to start another argument!


  22. #
    April — February 8, 2012 @ 8:54 pm

    I hate calling people so ordering a pizza has always been hard. I now take advantage of the option of ordering it online. The soup looks great.

    Amazing story.


  23. #
    Ashley@BakerbyNature — February 8, 2012 @ 9:02 pm

    I just realized I’ve yet to make soup this winter: doing this!!


  24. #
    Chrissy — February 8, 2012 @ 9:04 pm

    I laughed out loud at the bean argument. Sounds like something my family would argue about… if my grandma could boil water. Seriously, my grandma is an awful, awful cook. She’s actually nothing like old lady stereotypes. She has a dirty mouth, a dirtier mind, and is an absolutely fanatical football fan, decked out in her Steelers gear every Sunday yelling obscenities at the screen and flapping her Terrible Towel with all the strength she’s got. She’s 86 years old. She’s pretty much my favorite person in the world. I suppose that’s why I love reading your Mother Lovett stories :)


  25. #
    Leah — February 8, 2012 @ 10:33 pm

    This looks SO good! Will have to make it this month.


  26. #
    JoAnn Parrish — February 8, 2012 @ 10:42 pm

    Jess, I just want to drive over and give you a hug. But not in a weird way!


  27. #
    Kiran @ KiranTarun.com — February 9, 2012 @ 12:12 am

    Wow! I need to slurp on this comforting soup — like, right now.


  28. #
    Jolene (www.everydayfoodie.ca) — February 9, 2012 @ 1:01 am

    This looks incredible Jess! YUMMMMMMMMMMM!


  29. #
    Margarita — February 9, 2012 @ 2:03 am

    Yummy! Congratulations on perfecting the Mother Lovett taste!


  30. #
    Sarah — February 9, 2012 @ 2:36 am

    This looks sooo yummy!!! I have NEVER cooked with beans because the thought of soaking them over night just seemed to much for me, lol. Pathetic, I know!

    I have a stupid question – Can you use any type of bean? I have never heard of Navy Beans either, but I have A LOT of beans in my cabinet…don’t ask why, because I actually don’t know..lol.



  31. #
    Sonnet Gal — February 9, 2012 @ 7:24 am

    Once again, you are making me laugh outloud at 5am! Your family stories coupled with delicious recipes are what make you amazing! AND this is exactly like my mom’s soup, and of course I don’t have a recipe because all she does when I ask her how to make something is giggle and say, “Honey, I don’t know measurements.” Thank you, thank you, thank you for this delicious recipe, and for the story to go with it, especially the part about the hair curlers!


  32. #
    Joy — February 9, 2012 @ 8:05 am

    Ohh Jessica
    I am definitely trying this one. My husband may be grateful enough to… Take the donation boxes that weigh approximately ten million pounds out to the car for me


  33. #
    T.A. Helton — February 9, 2012 @ 8:51 am

    I just noticed the “Pin It” link at the bottom of the e-mail this morning. Oh…now I’m in trouble! LOL I am so happy I saw that. My InBox is full of e-mails of all the recipes that I want to try of yours…now I can just Pin all of them and clean out a year’s worth of e-mails. This recipe is first on my list this weekend! Thank you…T.A. ;-)


  34. #
    Kelley — February 9, 2012 @ 8:59 am

    Thank you for sharing this recipe! My mom also made wonderful bean soup ( I’m sure it was my grandmothers recipe) and it was the one recipe she did not write down. I am so happy to have it – this brings back great memories – just need some corn bread to go with it!

    Also, I wanted you to know that I remember her soaking the beans overnight!

    Love your blog – you seriously crack me up!


  35. #
    Lea Ann — February 9, 2012 @ 9:05 am

    I don’t soak beans for bean soup. Just bring them to a quick rapid boil on the stove then pour them in the crock pot for the long simmer. Also, Rick Bayless says never soak pinto beans overnight, it will drain them of their color. White Bean soup and ham is one of my favorite soups. I love Grandma Lovett’s addition of potatoes. Will have to do that next time.


  36. #
    catherine lichtenberger — February 9, 2012 @ 10:16 am

    Hey there.
    I guess i’m a whole different enchilada from everyone else. Ever since i had children i’m pretty much not afraid to ask or say something. Sometimes good and sometimes bad but i’d rather know then be left in the dark. With that being said i loved your story and recipe. It reminded me of my grandma growing up. She was the best cook. I use to ask her what made her food taste so good and she would tell me because she made it with love. I will never forget that. I’m gonna try this recipe but change it a bit like i sometimes do. I will use a different bean, turkey bacon instead of ham and add some avocado to top it off when i pour it into a bow. Thank you for sharing! =)


  37. #
    Mimi — February 9, 2012 @ 10:31 am

    From what my mom (and my personal experience plus a lifelong committment to Beano) remembers, the reason for soaking the beans and draining off the water is to reduce gassiness the day after. Man, I do love bean soup though!


  38. #
    Hannah — February 9, 2012 @ 10:55 am

    Purely for the fact that I have been following you and devouring our recipes and your writing for so long now, I think I definitely have to try this soup. It’s still summer here in Australia (although all this rain makes it feel like autumn already…) but as soon as the temperature starts to cool I will be pulling this out and demanding that my mother take me to the butchers. Thank you!!


  39. #
    Melanie — February 9, 2012 @ 11:56 am

    The one a.m. and half the family is toasted, arguing, we must be related! Looks delish just like my grammies. I look forward to meeting Mothright awayer Lovett in heaven-I think I’ll identify her right away! My gramma also washes her hair in the sink…get this, with DAWN dish liquid….ick!


  40. #
    Melanie — February 9, 2012 @ 11:59 am

    Umm, I dont know what happened with my auto correct but that is supposed to read Mother Lovett in the post above. Sorry!


  41. #
    kita — February 9, 2012 @ 1:26 pm

    This post is perfect, not only does it have me drooling and smiling at the image of your aunt seething, but it also has me wishing I had a sibling to have debates like that with. My mother passed when I was in my teens and I would love to be able to have someone to remember her recipes with. :) its a good kind of bittersweet, promise.


  42. #
    cecilia g — February 9, 2012 @ 2:26 pm

    I have a wood stove that heats my house, so i CAN COOK this ALL DAY LONG! fantastic! c


  43. #
    Susanna — February 9, 2012 @ 5:25 pm

    I’m a newbie here (I noticed your link from ‘The Pescetarian and the Pig’ blogsite). Thank you for this recipe, but mostly thank you for making me laugh. I laughed through the whole recipe! Somehow, I know the soup will taste even better because of the Grandma Lovett stories. This is more than a recipe blogsite – it’s full of warmth and humor that create a genuine connection to you. Your writing skill is outstanding too.


    • Jessica — February 9th, 2012 @ 5:26 pm

      Thank you so much Susanna! I can’t even tell you how much this means to me. It is a lot more than a recipe website to me too, and that’s what I hope others feel as well. So thank you!


  44. #
    Gaby@GabHousewifeChronicles — February 9, 2012 @ 5:26 pm

    I’m definitely trying this… I’ll let you know how it goes!


  45. #
    Fran@fransfavs.com — February 10, 2012 @ 12:38 am

    I’m an old timer, and I can tell you it’s most likely that Mother Lovett soaked the beans overnight. We were all taught to do that because it shortens the cooking time, and we didn’t want to pay the gas or electric company any more than we had to!


  46. #
    Rayna — February 10, 2012 @ 12:13 pm

    This is almost like my mom’s bean soup, except without the potatoes. I looks really good.


  47. #
    Mindy@FSLblog — February 10, 2012 @ 1:12 pm

    This looks like my kind of comfort food…


  48. #
    Jennifer G. — February 10, 2012 @ 9:18 pm

    I also make a bean soup. I have used different types of beans; however, for every kind I soak them overnight. I then cook them in the Crock Pot for at least 6 hours and they turn out perfect! Also, if you don’t want to buy a ham, I have been known to go to the store deli and have them slice me off some ham for the soup. They can slice it the width you like and then cut the chunks to your preference at home. It is cheaper than buying the already cut chunks that are in the prepackaged section.


  49. #
    Michelle Olivier — February 10, 2012 @ 10:35 pm

    This is almost exactly like my mom’s navy bean soup! Except we don’t add potatoes.

    Here’s our ham secret: go to Honeybaked Ham and buy a ham bone. It comes with lots of ham clinging to it. Voila!


  50. #
    J3nn (Jenn's Menu and Lifestyle Blog) — February 11, 2012 @ 12:34 am

    That sounds so wonderful! And I love your soup spoons; they’re adorable!



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