Ham & Bean Soup- A Christmas Tradition

For many years now, my husband has been given a wonderful spiral sliced ham from his employer at Christmas time. It is a real blessing, because it’s not something we would normally splurge on, so we really enjoy it.

After a few days of leftovers from Christmas dinner, if there is any meat left, we take it off the bone and freeze it. I am much happier to see it again in a couple of weeks, and it feels like a treat all over again, đŸ™‚

But the ham bone? I don’t throw it away, because it makes the most delightful soup.

There are a million ways to make ham and bean soup, and usually I just do a pinch of this and that. But this year I measured and documented, and I am so glad that I did, because this was easily the best ham and bean soup I have ever made. Hubby even said it was REALLY good after he had his first bite.

At Easter dinner this past year, my sister in law offered me her leftover ham bone, which I gladly accepted. I wanted to try it out in my new electric pressure cooker.

So I really put it to the test- I did not soak the beans, and only cooked the soup in the pressure cooker, no simmering on the stove. The soup was really good, and had a nice flavor, but I must admit, a few of the beans were harder than others. Now it could have been that my beans were older, and some of them were just tough. I love my pressure cooker and it was so nice to have the soup done very quickly so I was able to share some with her, but maybe I should have cooked it  few minutes longer.

As you will see below, for my soup this year, I once again used my pressure cooker, but only for the initial cooking of the beans. Because we had a lazy day at home, I let it simmer on the stove for about 4 hours, and the flavor was amazing! Here was my process start to finish:

Note: Detailed  printable recipe at the end of this post

STEP ONE

Soak the beans over night. I do think this is an important step, though it can be skipped, and there are quick soak methods. But I think it does help with digestibility, and is a super easy step, as long as you remember to plan ahead. I use this bowl with a dinner plate on top. Keep in mind that your beans will expand quite a bit as they soak.

STEP TWO

The next day, I drained the soaking water from the beans and put them in my electric pressure cooker. I added a can of Rotel diced tomatoes and green chiles, a can of more green chiles, some cumin, diced onion, minced garlic, 3 cups filtered water, and most importantly, a drizzle of olive oil to keep the beans from foaming in the pressure cooker. I selected the Beans setting and hit start.

After the 40 minute cycle, the beans were cooked nicely, the flavors were well infused , and the cooking liquid was thick and rich. Note: that time does not include the cooker coming to pressure, or the pressure being released from the cooker.

STEP THREE

I poured the beans and broth into a large stock pot and added another can of Rotel and another tablespoon of cumin. To that I added 4 bay leaves (leaving them whole to be removed later), and a quart of chicken broth. I also diced up about 2 cups worth of leftover ham, and I added the ham bone.

You will notice I have not at any point added any salt. I did not add any when the beans were initially cooking, because that can make them tough. And I held off at this point because I knew the ham and chicken broth were both salty. In the end, the soup needed no additional seasoning.

This simmered on the stove for about 4 hours. Several hours in, I removed the ham bone to a cutting board and cut the remaining meat off the bone and added it back into the soup.

STEP FOUR

After we enjoyed our soup, I let the remainder cool on the stove before I packaged them up. While I generally store all our leftovers in glass these days, for my soups and sauces, I use plastic containers to freeze them in. I have not had good success with freezing in glass jars, I just don’t think they are as well made as they used to be, and do not withstand freezing well. So I use these thick deli style containers.  For 2 of the containers I left plenty of headroom for freezing, and the third I knew hubby would be taking to work the next day for lunches, so I filled it all the way up.

Whew, this has been a long post, but I hope you enjoyed it and will give making ham & bean soup a try. We are really not fans of beans, but we all love this soup.

***Here is a link to the containers I use from Amazon.com.   I am an Amazon affiliate and will receive a small commission if you purchase through this link, but it will not increase your purchase price. Thank you for buying me a latte every now and then đŸ™‚ ***

DuraHome – Deli Food Storage Containers With Lids 32 Ounce, Quart Pack of 24 – Plastic Microwaveable Container

Here’s the detailed recipe:

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Ham & Bean Soup

A great recipe to make use of Easter or Christmas ham leftovers

Servings 8

Ingredients

For Pressure Cooker

  • 1 lb 15 bean soup mix
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 can Rotel 10 oz
  • 1 can chopped green chiles 4 oz
  • 1 small onion minced
  • 5 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tbs ground cumin
  • 1 tbs olive oil

For the Stove top

  • Beans and cooking liquid
  • 1 can Rotel 10 oz
  • 1 tbs cumin
  • 4-5 bay leaves
  • 2 cups chopped ham
  • 1 ham bone
  • 1 quart chicken broth

Instructions

  1. Pressure Cooker Instructions:  
    Add the oil last, it helps keep the beans from foaming and creating a mess when the pressure is released. Set cooker to the Beans setting, or set manually to 40 minutes, and let the beans naturally release pressure (NPR) after the cooking cycle is complete.

  2. Stovetop Instructions:  
    Add all ingredients to a large stockpot and simmer for 3-4 hours. After several hours, remove ham bone and cut remaining meat off the bone and add the bone and meat back to the pot. Before serving, remove bay leaves and discard.

Recipe Notes

This soup freezes very well, but make sure to leave plenty of head space in container before freezing.