This is called 'Senate' white bean soup, because it has been served in the United States Senate dining room for over 100 years and has always been a big favorite there. This particular recipe was given to me by a dear lady years ago who was one of the best southern cooks I have ever known. She and her husband served as the directors over the Southern Baptist Association in our county. The summer after I graduated from college I worked at the missions office, as did my sister, and we really grew to love Reverend and Mrs. Tallant. They were just wonderful people. This soup always reminds me of them.
Mrs. Tallant would cook a nice lunch for everyone each day and we would all eat at the office there, because at night or in the afternoon, myself and two or three other girls would get in my little car and travel all over our county to the small rural churches and help them conduct their Bible schools. It was a lot of fun, but it makes me tired just thinking about it now. Needless to say, we needed those nourishing lunches.
This soup was something she would make for the monthly pastor's luncheon. All of the ministers in the area would come together for a meeting once a month or sometimes twice and Mrs. Tallant would have a nice meal prepared for them. I think that is what got a lot of them to the meeting actually. This basic recipe makes quite a bit of soup for a family, but if you are feeding a crowd like she did, you can double it. Here is what you'll need:
1 lb. navy or great northern beans
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup grated or shredded carrot
1 Tbs. minced garlic
1 ham hock or meaty ham bone
2 cups chopped ham (can use country ham or smoked ham)
1 Tbs. bacon drippings
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
2-3 drops of Tabasco sauce (optional)
Wash and sort the beans. Place in your soup pot or dutch oven and cover with water about an inch over the top of the beans. Bring to a boil. Boil for just a few minutes. Remove from the heat and drain well. Place back in the pan with about 2 quarts of water. Add the chopped celery, onion, garlic, and shredded carrot. Add the ham hock or ham bone and the bacon drippings. Season with salt and black pepper. Bring up to a boil then turn down to simmer and simmer covered for about an hour.
Add the chopped ham and cook for about 2 more hours on medium low heat. Remove 2 cups of the beans and mash them with a fork and return to pot. This just thickens the soup. Also, remove the ham hock or ham bone and trim any of the lean meat from it. Discard the fat and bone. Cook for about 30 more minutes. The soup should be nice and thick at this point. Taste for seasoning, depending on what type of ham you used, you might need more salt. If you used country ham, you probably won't need any additional salt.
Senate White Bean Soup!