Ham and Cannellini Bean Soup by cucinagirl

1 pound dried cannellini beans 
1 smoked ham hock 
1 tablespoon vegetable oil 
1/2 medium onion, chopped 
1 large stalk celery, chopped 
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped 
2 bay leaves 
2 cups fully cooked ham, diced (about 1/2 pound) 
freshly ground black pepper 
salt, as needed 

The night before making the soup, pick through the beans and discard any that are wrinkled or discolored.  Then rinse the beans and soak overnight in a pot with 6 cups of water. 

Drain the beans.

In a large pot or Dutch oven,  cover the ham hock with water by about 2 inches.  Bring to boil.  Reduce heat slightly and maintain a gentle boil for 1 hour, adding water as necessary to cover ham. 

After about 45 minutes, sauté chopped vegetables over medium heat with about 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, until vegetables are tender and just begin to brown. Add the vegetables, bay leaves, and drained beans to the pot with the ham hock.

Cover and boil for another 1.5 to 3 hours, until the beans reach desired tenderness and ham hock is falling off the bone.  During approximately the last 1/2 hour of cooking, add the diced ham. 

Before serving, remove bay leaves and ham hock from soup.  Discard skin, fat, and bone,  Chop remaining ham and add back to the pot.  Season with freshly ground black pepper and salt, if needed (ours didn’t need any additional salt).  

Serve with cornbread, an onion wedge, and a small mound of sea salt.*

*The McCue method for eating ham and bean soup:

- Take one layer of onion wedge. 
- Dip onion in salt. 
- Bite onion. 
- Take a bite of soup. 
- (I was scared at first, too.  But it was quite tasty and fun!)