1 pound Great Northern beans—picked over, rinsed, and soaked overnight in
12 cups Chicken Stock or 6 cups canned low-sodium broth mixed with 6 cups
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 carrot, thinly sliced
1 celery rib, thinly sliced
3 large garlic cloves, sliced
Bouquet garni made with 2 teaspoons black peppercorns, 2 fresh thyme sprigs
and 1 bay leaf, tied in cheesecloth
2 meaty smoked ham hocks
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Drain the beans and rinse them thoroughly. Put the beans in a large pot, add the Chicken Stock, onion, carrot, celery, garlic, bouquet garni and ham hocks and bring to a boil over high heat. Cover partially and simmer over moderate heat until the beans are tender, about 1 3/4 hours. Transfer the ham hocks to a plate; discard the bouquet garni.
Pass the beans through a food mill and return the puree to the soup pot. Season with salt and pepper. Pull all the meat from the ham hocks and shred it into bite-size pieces; add the meat to the soup.
Bring the soup to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season well and stir in the parsley just before serving.
The soup can be refrigerated for several days. Reheat the soup gently; add a little water if it seems too thick.