Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Senate Bean Soup

Once upon a time, I worked in Washington, D.C..  The cherry blossoms welcomed me my first week on the job.  I remember sitting on a bench on the Mall taking in their beauty, marveling at my good fortune of being a "resident" now and shivering a bit in the still cool spring air.  

My job frequently took me to "The Hill" for the Senate and House Armed Services and Appropriation Committee hearings.  It was there that I discovered, and dined on, Senate Bean Soup.  When I came across a package of dried navy beans in the pantry clean out, I promised to make myself a bowl before it became too warm to actually enjoy.  This week, with much warmer temperatures but rain in the forecast every day, seemed the time to put on the soup pot.

There are conflicting (no surprise here) reports of how this soup came to be.  Some credit Senator Fred Dubois of Idaho for introducing it in the early 20th century.  His version has potatoes of course!  Others credit Senator Knute Nelson of Minnesota for introducing it around 1903.  The soup of my memory does not contain potatoes and neither does mine.  I'm not sure how close it is to the senate version, but it is a very good bowl full.

Sort of Senate Bean Soup from memory

1 pound of dried navy beans, covered with cold water and soaked overnight
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 stalks of celery, finely diced
12 cups of ham bone stock, chicken stock or water
Cooked diced ham (if desired)

1.  Look over the beans carefully before the overnight soaking.
2.  In a large pot, saute the onion and celery in a Tbsp of vegetable oil until translucent, about three minutes.
3.  Drain the beans, add them to the pot and add the broth or water.
4.  Bring to a steady simmer, partially cover the pot with a lid and cook from 1 1/2 to 2 hours, stirring occasionally and checking for doneness.  The beans should maintain their form and have a creamy consistency.
5.  Add the ham to heat through.

NOTE:  Instead of halving the recipe for us, I freeze a portion for a quick meal in the future.



  1. Bonnie, your soup looks perfect! This is my favorite soup, love it and have made versions of Senate bean soup countless times. What a welcome to Washington you had! It is gorgeous there at cherry blossom time, for sure! You had the perfect soup and the perfect setting back then!

  2. Soup is perfectly made! Looks super yummy! :)

  3. Having been born and raised in D.C. I had heard about this soup for a long time. Yours looks good!!!

  4. Soup sounds good to me right now, and this one is very tempting. Love the cherry blossoms! :)

  5. I don't think I'd need cold weather or a rainy day to enjoy this. And how nice you could enjoy those cherry blossoms every day!

  6. I love bean soup. This sounds relish! I am also drooling over the barbecue pork roast in your previous post.

  7. I wish bean soup was on our menu tonight! It's so chilly today and has been pouring on and off all day. I would be perfect soup weather.

  8. Love me some bean soup and this sounds great! I'll bet the cherry blossoms were an amazing site:@)

  9. Sounds so good. I made lots of soup over the winter and our cold March. Now, thankfully, we are really loving the warm temps here in southeast PA. Freezing some soup for later is a very good idea!

  10. Oh, I love bean soup. Love it with cornbread.

  11. I do love a good bean soup and this one sounds delicious! Plus, I love the whole idea of enjoying a Senatorial Soup! I still envy your working there. ;) blessings ~ tanna

  12. I'm visiting from Doris' blog. Nice to meet you. My husband and I will love this recipe. Thanks and have a nice day.

  13. I love bean soup! I, too, will have to make this before it gets warm....some crusty bread on the side...yum!! I recently saw a recipe for Senate Bean Soup in a White House Cookbook....I wonder who they credit! :-) Pinning....

  14. I love bean soup... simple and so good.

  15. Hi Bonnie,

    I wonder if we were in Washington around the same time.My father used to take us to the Ebbits Grill (i think that was the name). They served the Senate Bean Soup...so good on a winter's day.
    I worked as a technical engineer at NBC starting right at the time of the Watergate scandal.

    Good memories.


  16. Bonnie, we call that soup "Methodist Bean Soup" because it makes an appearance at nearly every pot luck we have! We need it for this cold weather!

  17. I love a good bean soup and this looks like a real winner. Thank you for sharing it. I imagine it would be especially tasty with a big chunk of homemade cornbread!

  18. My mother used to make this soup after she had baked a ham. I haven't had it in a long time but know how good yours must taste.

  19. I'm sure it's close enough. Most of these guys and gals now don't know what they are doing or thinking from one day to the next! ;-)

    Trying to catch up with everyone and get back to blogging. That means yanking myself out of the crazy winter schedule I found myself trapped in and unable to pull the STOP! cord.

  20. wow, i love soup anything!
    this sounds so good and tasty!
    i am definitely going to give this a try!
    thanks for the great recipe and have a lovely weekend!

    i love blogs about food.
    stopping by via sandra's to say hi!:)

  21. Bonnie your soup look delicious!!!

  22. We are still having cool days here, perfect soup
    for this kind of weather.

    Enjoy your day!

    M :)


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