White Beans, Greens + Ham Hock Soup


SF weather is in a class all of its own. We get robbed of a summer as the fog likes to hang out along our coast for most of July, August,  and even September. It’s extremely cold, windy, and depressing here when it’s hot, sunny, and seemingly dreamy everywhere else. Sigh. Enter a hot bowl of soup. Soup is the perfect antidote for our wintery summers - and this one, packed with cabbage, smoky ham hock and delicious white beans fits the bill. I made a pot of it two days ago when I anticipated another fog-laden day. And guess what?  The sun decided to come out, of course. A more appropriate dinner would have been to grill outside but I am here to tell you this soup is good in hot weather too! Special thanks to Favorite Recipes from Melissa Clark’s Kitchen for the culinary inspiration.

Also, this recipe, while not difficult, has multiple steps. You can prep the ham stock and the beans on the weekend or just skip the dried bean step altogether and simply use canned beans.


  • 1 smoked ham hock (have your butcher cut it into two pieces to fit more easily in a pot)

  • 16 oz dried cannellini beans, such as Rancho Gordo brand (or use canned) (you will only use half of these beans but the rest you can freeze for another day)

  • 2 onions, one halved and the other small diced

  • 3 large carrots, peeled and sliced into thin coins

  • 2-3 stalks celery, medium-diced

  • 3 cloves minced  garlic

  • 1 bay leaf

  • ½ head of green cabbage

  • 1 bunch of kale, stemmed and chopped into smallish pieces


  • 1 parmesan rind


Soak the white beans in a large saucepan, covered with at least an inch of water overnight. In the am, drain the beans, fill up the pot again with fresh water. Add the halved onion, and a good bit of salt. Sometimes I add a bouillon cube. You want the bean broth to taste good so that the beans taste good! Bring to a boil, then simmer for about an hour and a half or until the beans are just tender.

While the beans are simmering, grab another largish pot, such as a Dutch oven, add your ham hock and fill the pot with water or until it covers the ham hock. Add a good pinch of salt and bring the pot to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer the hock for about an hour and a half. This will tenderize the hock and also create a flavorful broth.

Once you have your broth and beans prepared, you can start the soup. Sauté the diced onion, carrot, celery and a pinch of salt, in a few glugs of olive oil over low heat until they turn translucent. I often add a bit of water or stock to the sauté so the vegetables don’t burn. Once the veggies are nice and soft, add the garlic, then add the bay leaf, the parmesan rind, the ham stock, and about half of the beans (and some of the pot liquid too, why not?). Simmer on low for about 30 minutes, then add the cabbage. While the cabbage simmers, pull apart the ham hock into bite-sized chunks and add it to the soup pot. Once the cabbage breaks down, add the kale and simmer for another 10 minutes or so. You want the kale to keep its bright green color but lose its toughness. Taste the soup for seasoning and serve with some crusty bread.  The soup yields quite a bit so invite a crowd or freeze any remaining for another night.

Molly Crehan