1 lb. dry baby lima beans
8 cups water or chicken broth
4 whole cloves garlic, crushed
1 1/2 lbs. smoked ham bone or ham hocks
2 bay leaves
2 potatoes, peeled and cubed
4 large carrots, peeled and sliced
4 stalks celery, thinly sliced
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 tsp. thyme, crushed (optional)
1-2 tbsp. low sodium chicken or ham soup base
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
pinch of cayenne pepper, or to taste
Rinse the beans in cold running water and sort to remove any stones or debris, or split beans. Wash several times.
Cover the beans with water in a large stock pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 3 or 4 minutes. Remove from the heat, cover, and let stand for 1 or 2 hours. Alternatively, Or, the beans may be soaked overnight in a covered pan. Do not drain.
Bring the beans and liquid to boiling. Add a large meaty ham bone or ham hocks, onions, celery, garlic, thyme, pepper and bay leaves. (Ham is salty and you shouldn't add salt - let your guests add it themselves at the table to suit their tastes).
Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer over very low heat for 1 hour or until the beans are nearly tender. Remove the bone or ham hocks.
When the ham is cool enough to handle, remove any remaining meat from the bones and chop.
Add the meat back to the soup. Add potatoes and carrots. Remove 1/2 cup of the soup broth and stir the soup base in until dissolved; add this back to the soup.
Cover and simmer over low heat for 30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.
This is a wonderful soup and there are numerous variations. We usually serve this with pasta (such as ziti or penne, noodles or spaghetti). Navy beans may be used instead of baby lima beans, or split peas are just great. If you have any leftover ham, it may be cubed and added to the soup during the last 15 minutes.