This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo
Dried small white beans, or pea beans, are a type of haricot bean, many varieties of which have been cultivated in the New World far 5,000 years. They came to be called navy beans for their role as a mess staple on navy ships. As navy bean soup evolved, the addition of a smoked ham hock to the pot was a natural development. Not only is it a source of protein that could be stored on seafaring journeys, it is also a source of the perfect flavor to complement and enhance the somewhat bland beans. For the same reasons, the soup naturally made its way into American home cooking, where it remains a favorite for uplifting gloomy winter days. Using both a hock and a shank means the soup gets the depth of flavor bone offers plus plenty of meat, which the shank offers. One or the other is okay, though, if you can’t find both.
Cooking MethodPressure Cooking
OccasionCasual Dinner Party, Game Day
Dietary ConsiderationEgg-free, Gluten-free, Lactose-free, Peanut Free, Soy Free, Tree Nut Free
Taste and TextureHerby, Salty, Smoky
Type of DishHot Soup, Soup
- 1 1/2
cup dried small white (navy) beans
- 5 cups water
- 1 bay leaf
- 5 large sprigs fresh thyme, or ¼ teaspoon dried
cup chopped celery leaves
- One ¾-pound piece smoked ham hock
- One ¾-pound smoked ham shank
- 1 small yellow or white onion, halved
- 2 whole coves, stuck into the onion halves
- 1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (optional), for garnish
A bowl of soup calls for a slice of homemade bread! You’ll want to bake your own bread when you take a look at these Make Your Own Bread: 6 Tricks to Baking Bread from Scratch
Place the beans, water, bay leaf, thyme, celery leaves, ham hock, ham shank, and clove-stuck onion halves in the pressure cooker. Lock on the lid and bring to pressure over high heat about 8 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low to low and cook for 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and let sit for 15 minutes to finish cooking.
With the steam vent pointed away from your face, gently release any remaining pressure and carefully remove the lid. Lift out and discard the bay leaf, thyme sprigs, and onion. Lift out the ham, cut the meat off the bone, and return the meat to the pot. Stir in the salt. Serve piping hot reheating if necessary, sprinkled with freshly ground black pepper and parsley, if using.
Keeping an Eye on the Pot
It’s important to remember to keep an eye on the pressure indicator when cooking peas and beans. Usually the burner heat needs adjusting once or twice to make sure the pressure remains high enough to cook the ingredients in the time given, yet not so high that the contents boil over.
2005 Victoria Wise
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