My grandmother, Rua, made the best ham and beans. She used smoked hocks, onion and Great Northern Beans. After soaking the beans overnight and picking them over, she’d put these three ingredients in a stock pot and cover with water. She’d get it up to a good simmer and let it simmer all day. At the end of a cold fall day, a hot bowl of ham and beans was just the way to settle in at Grandma Rua’s table. Usually we’d have cornbread or hot rolls and a salad to make it a full meal.
Grandma always liked to add splash of white vinegar to her bowl, but the rest of us typically ate it as it was. As I’ve grown older, I find I enjoy a quick grate of parmesan cheese in my bowl. My husband likes it Grandma’s way, with a splash of vinegar. As with all these recipes, do what you like to make it your own.
I love this soup with a salad, or a nice grilled cheese. Cornbread with honey-butter is a great accompaniment. A platter of crudites or pickled vegetables pairs well too.
Grandma Rua’s Ham N’ Beans
- 7-8 qt Stock Pot or Slow Cooker
- 1 lb Great Northern Beans, Dry
- 3 lbs Smoked Pork Hocks or Shanks, or a combo of both Can substitute bone-in ham.
- 2-3 cups Onion, small dice
- 8 cups Water
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- Pick-over beans, then soak in cold water for 12 hours, or overnight.
- After soaking, remove any floating skins or discolored beans.
- Place soaked beans, diced onions and smoked pork hocks and/or shanks in a large stock pot or slow cooker.
- Add 8 cups of water to crock pot, will mostly cover the smoked pork and beans, onions will float initially.
- If using a stock pot, bring to a gentle boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and simmer for 8 hours or until beans are soft and liquid is reduced. if using a crock pot, cook on high for 2 hours and then reduce to low and cook for 8-10 hours until beans are soft and liquid is reduced.
- Remove hocks or shanks from the soup and allow them to cool until comfortable to handle. Keep soup warm.
- Remove meat from the bones, discarding excess fat, bones and rind from the meat. Return meat pieces to the soup and allow it to reheat.
- Taste the soup and add salt and pepper to taste. This soup rarely needs salt, as the smoked meat has enough salt, so make sure to taste before adjusting the seasoning.
- Smoked pork hocks and shanks can be found near smoked ham in most grocery stores. I prefer a combination as shanks are meatier, but the hocks have more fat and flavor. Alternatively, smoked bone-in ham can be substituted.
- If using a crock pot, it may take longer to cook the beans until they are fully softened.
- I typically use the crock pot on days I have to work, and start the soup while I am getting ready for work, and cook it on high until I leave for the office. Then I turn it down to low and let it go all day. Typically 10 hours.
- Salad, cornbread, fresh rolls or a crudite platter are all great accompaniments for this dish. Alternatively, a grilled cheese is a wonderful pairing.
- A splash of vinegar to the finished soup (about a teaspoon) brings a nice acid and brightness to the soup.
- A grating of parmesan compliments the white beans and results in a more Italian style bean dish.