Senate Bean Soup and Gam’s Navy Bean Soup

Senate Bean SoupCool Beans
Anyone who has known me for more than twenty minutes knows that I am into cooking. Those brave souls who stick around longer, know that I really like cookbooks…I have a rather large collection. There is something about cookbooks (and books in general) that make me happy. I love the look of them, and to thumb through them. I even use them to decorate my kitchen—there’s nothing cooler than a kitchen library corner!).

Over the years, friends and family have given me all sorts of cookbooks—from hot, trendy ones to the antiques they found in grandma’s attic. I especially enjoy the older ones, because they give me a glimpse of life in a different place and time.

My Father in Law gave me The Congressional Cookbook. It was originally published in 1927, and belonged to his mother. The recipes are compiled from members of The Congressional Club, who themselves are comprised of the wives and daughters of the members of Congress and the Supreme Court. Basically, it is a Congressional Junior League Cookbook. It is fantastic not only for the recipes, but for the social suggestions that go along with them. I may not ever have to worry about the proper seating arrangements for the President and other heads of state but at least I will be prepared.

Included in the 800+ pages of The Congressional Cookbook is the recipe for Senate Bean Soup, which has been served every day in the Senate restaurant since it was introduced in the early 1900s. It is, simple but very satisfying, and one that my grandmother used to make—though Gam tweaked it a bit.

It’s great to have in your freezer for chilly fall nights, or for a tasty lunch when the rain finally comes. (Cross your fingers!) This is a lazy Sunday type recipe so if you find yourself with a free afternoon, give this a try.

I have listed the Senate recipe below as well as my Grandmother’s version.

Senate Bean Soup
From The Congressional Cookbook
Serves 8

2 pounds dried navy beans
4 quarts hot water
1 1/2 pounds smoked ham hocks
1 onion, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
salt and pepper to taste

Prep the beans
Wash the navy beans, and run hot water through them until they are slightly whitened. Place the beans into a pot with hot water.

Simmer the soup
Add the ham hocks and simmer approximately three hours in a covered pot, stirring occasionally. Remove the ham hocks, and set aside to cool.

Finish the soup
Dice the meat and return to soup. Lightly brown the onion in butter, and add it to the soup. Before serving, bring the soup to a boil, and season with salt and pepper.

Instant Pot
To make this soup in the Instant Pot, cook the beans with the ham hocks on high pressure for 30 minutes allowing the steam to release naturally. Then, follow the rest of the recipe to finish the soup.

Gam’s Navy Bean Soup

1 pound dried navy beans
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 large onions, chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup chopped parsley
About 2 lbs ham hocks, sawed into halves
1 teaspoon each dried rosemary and thyme
1 teaspoon dried mustard
1 bay leaf
4 cups chicken broth
Salt and Pepper to taste

Sort through the beans and discard any debris; rinse beans and drain well. Place the beans in a 6 to 8 quart pot. Cover generously with water, and bring to a boil over high heat. Remove from heat, cover, and let stand at least 1 hour; drain and discard the water. Set the beans aside.

*Alternatively, you could soak the beans overnight. Drain them and continue with the recipe.

Heat the oil in the same pot. Cook the onion, carrot, celery, garlic, and parsley, uncovered, over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until onion is quite limp, about 10 minutes. Add the beans, ham hocks, rosemary, thyme, mustard, bay leaf, broth and 1 ½ quarts water. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer until meat is tender enough to pull from bones easily and beans mash readily, or about 3 hours.

*If you prefer a creamier version, puree half the soup and add it back in with the beans. Carefully shred the meat off of the ham hocks. Serve.

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