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.