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Jan 17, 2010 01:12 PM

Which beans for ham and bean soup?

I want to place an order for beans from Rancho Gordo for a much-anticipated bean soup I've been wanting to make, though I have rather limited bean knowledge. Which beans should I use? The Senate bean soup says navy, others cannellini, and still others... "white" (tepary? vallarta? mayacoba? borlotti? aigh!). I'd like to puree a small portion to thicken the soup at the end, and retain some substance in the rest as opposed to the beans completely melting into the soup. Thank you so much in advance!

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  1. Navy. Great Northern would be my next choice. I look at Rancho Gordo but never bought from them, so sorry if that doesn't help.

    1. Another vote for navy beans!

      1. Personally, I don't think there's a huge flavor or texture diff between most beans. Naturally, a split pea is different than a lentil is different than a lima, but a cooked lima is not so different than a cooked cannellini or a borlotti except visually. In my opinion. Cooking times will vary but that has as much to do with the age of the bean as the size and can be mitigated by a thorough soak and slow, gentle cooking.

        This means that you have a wide latitude to use what's available or make an assortment according to your whim. Go for it and don't be intimidated!

        PS A friend told me that I had to try Rancho Gordo beans. Altho I am much in ffavor of preserving heirloom varieties and diversity of all things, I can't say I've noticed a great difference between RG beans and any decent locally available bean.

        1 Reply
        1. re: rainey

          Thank you for the objective assessment with regards to Rancho Gordo beans and the other varieties! This means I can make my soup sooner than later. And more thank yous to coll and LauraGrace -- I think I'll go with Navy. More comments are very welcome!

        2. Great Northern beansand navy are basically the same bean that are of different sizes - they are both cultivars of haricot. They taste the same and are interchangeable - Great Northerns are slighly bigger. Since you said you'd wanted them to hold their shape, I'd go for them. But Rancho Gordo doesn't sell them...just buy them at your regular old grocery store.

          1. I find cannellini have a creaminess and flavor beyond compare; they're all I use for ham and bean soup anymore. I picked up a bag of Rancho Gordo beans at the SF Ferry Building farmer's market while on vacation a few years ago, and they were delightful. Good luck and enjoy.