Soak the white beans overnight in cold water. Be sure the beans are covered by several inches. They will absorb a surprising amount of water.
Drain the beans and discard the soaking water. In a stock pot, combine the soaked beans, ham hock and 3 quarts of water.
Cover the pot and bring to a boil. Once it is boiling, reduce the heat and simmer briskly with the cover slightly ajar for about 90 minutes. Stir occasionally.
Stir in onion, potato, celery, garlic, salt and pepper. Simmer steadily for another hour until everything is very tender and the soup is thick. Some recipes for this soup suggest that you sautee the vegetables in butter before adding it to the soup.
Now, remove the ham hock. Throw away any bones or fat and place the shredded meat back in the soup.
Serve very hot with a simple salad and crusty bread. This recipe makes about 6 hearty servings.
- I’ve also made this in the crock pot. Add soaked beans and ham hock to the crock, and cook on low for about 8 hours, then (after work) add the rest of the ingredients and cook for another hour or more (switch to high if desired). Shred the meat from the ham hock and throw away bones and fat.
- For a vegetarian version, simply leave out the ham hock.