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Cherish the Ham Bone (Recipe: Slow-cooker Navy Bean Soup)

January 12, 2013
by Jackie Garvin
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Ham bones and dried  beans cry out for each other in the night.  They have a natural affinity and love it when they can get together.  You can throw all types of dried beans in a pot with a ham bone and wind up with deliciousness.  You really don’t need to add much of anything except some salt, pepper and maybe some onion.  The beans get a wonderful smokey flavor from the ham bone.
Now, if you’ve ever thrown away a ham bone as soon as  the ham’s been carved, drop to your knees now and ask for forgiveness.  And then hit yourself in the head and repeat after me, “What on earth was I thinking?”  If you don’t have anything in mind for the ham bone right away, throw it in a freezer bag and store it in the freezer until you get ready to use it.  I frequently have to wade through ham bones, shrimp and crab shells, turkey and chicken carcasses, pork roast bones and food scrapes in my freezer to find uncooked food.
Navy bean soup is easy, nutritious, delicious, hearty and debit card friendly.  That’s a winner in anybody’s book.
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Navy Bean Soup
Slow-cooker Navy Bean Soup
A slow-requires less water than a stockpot.  Water condensation forms on the lid of the slow-cooker and  adds water.  To adapt this recipe to a stockpot, use 8 cups of water instead of 6.
The final texture of the soup is a matter of preference.  Serve it  just as it is without pureeing any of it, or  purée until completely smooth, or anything in-between    I would recommend a least a light purée since the smashed beans help thicken the broth.
Crockpots come in all different sizes.  A small one wouldn’t be big enough to hold the contents of this recipe.  Mine is oblong and measures 11 inches across.  I filled it  to  the brim with the ham bone, beans and vegetables  and could only get about 6 1/2 cups of water in.  Of course, the ham bone takes up a lot of space but I  formulated the recipe for a slow-cooker because that’s the way so many folks, including myself, like to cook soups.  I prefer my stockpot over my slow-cooker if I’m making a batch big enough to feed the county and I need a bigger size cooking vessel than the slow-cooker offers.
1 pound dried Navy beans, soaked overnight and drained
 1 ham bone
1 onion, diced
3 carrots, peeled and diced
3 celery stalks, diced including tops
3 garlic cloves, smashed and minced
parsley, handful trimmed and chopped
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons seasoned salt
6  to 7 cups water
Place  ham bone to slow cooker and add  onion, carrots, celery, garlic, parsley and bay leaf.
Add soaked and drained beans.  Sprinkle seasoned salt over beans.  Cover beans with as much water as you can fit in cooker.
Cook on slow for 12 hours or high for 8 to 10 hours or until beans and vegetables are tender. Add more water if necessary.
Remove bay leaf and soup bone when soup is done.
Puree about 1/3 of the soup mixture by using an immersion blender or transferring to a blender or food processor.  Or, you can use a potato masher and mash it around a bit until part of the soup is pureed.
Remove ham from bone, dice and add back to soup.
Taste for seasoning and adjust.
You might also enjoy:

Slow-cooker Split Pea Soup

Turnip Root Soup

Sausage and Bean Soup


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24 Comments leave one →
  1. January 12, 2013 6:28 pm

    The reason for cooking a ham is rarely about “the first meal.” For us it’s all about the sandwiches and the soup after. Your soup looks so appetizing!

    • January 12, 2013 7:47 pm

      Thanks,Maureen! I agree with the “long term use” of a baked addition to soups and sandwiches,I always cut small pieces to use for seasoning,too!

  2. cindy permalink
    January 12, 2013 8:36 pm

    This looks yummy! I think it’ll be on the menu next week as the cooler temperatures return. 🙂

  3. January 13, 2013 3:28 am

    “Ham bones and dried beans cry out for each other in the night.” That just cracks me up. This will be slow cooking in my kitchen very very soon. Can’t wait!

    • January 13, 2013 8:42 am


      I hope your dried beans and ham bones don’t kick up too much of a fuss before you get a chance to cook them! 🙂

  4. January 15, 2013 6:17 pm

    Mmmm mmmmm mmmmm Jackie, we are thoroughly enjoying this soup! It’s soooo good.

    • January 15, 2013 6:42 pm

      Oh, good! I’m so happy you’re enjoying it. Is “Miss Priss the Picky Eater” eating it too? 🙂

      I just finished up the last bowl of my batch tonight.

  5. January 15, 2013 8:42 pm

    Well, Miss Priss is being Miss Priss, but it doesn’t stop the rest of us. We just say, there’s more for us now!! 🙂

  6. Tutie permalink
    October 15, 2013 3:33 pm

    Here in the South we have that quite often. Dry beans are a staple here, except we don’t eat it like soup. We do mash them a bit until it makes a creamy gravy consistency and serve it over rice. We love white beans & rice or our red beans & rice. It’s part of our Cajun diet on the Bayou.

    • October 16, 2013 3:01 pm


      I’ve certainly eaten my share of dried beans. Still eating them and I hope I do till the day I die.

  7. October 25, 2013 8:55 pm

    what if you dont have a ham bone and want to make this soup?

    • October 26, 2013 9:48 am

      Season with a different kind of meat. I liked smoked meats because it adds more flavor. Bacon is a good substitute.

      • Darlene permalink
        September 19, 2014 12:28 pm

        I think ham hocks would make a great substitute. Maybe I will try it this weekend. 🙂

  8. November 30, 2013 1:10 am

    Trying it for the first time. Thanks for the simple directions. I think I can do it.

    • November 30, 2013 6:33 am

      Of course, you can! The hallmark of everyday Southern food is simplicity. Enjoy!

  9. February 15, 2014 1:13 pm

    I found this recipe today on Pinterest and it is in my Crock Pot right now! So excited to try it.
    Thank you.

  10. Gunner (the dog) permalink
    September 30, 2014 9:46 am

    Plus, the dog gets an all day bone to “naw on”

  11. December 7, 2015 11:21 am

    Could you do this with canned beans if you don’t have the time to soak dried beans?

  12. December 7, 2015 12:25 pm

    If you don’t have dried beans or the time to soak them, could you use canned?

    • December 7, 2015 12:45 pm

      Yes, you can use canned beans. I would recommend that you rinse and drain them because they’re canned with a good bit of salt. Also, the cooking time will need an adjustment since the canned beans are ready to eat.

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