3/4 cup dried white beans (navy or cannellini)6 parsley stems2 sprigs fresh thyme2 bay leaves1 Tbsp. olive oil2 strips smoked bacon (2 ounces), cut into 1/4-inch dice1 medium yellow onion, minced3 garlic cloves, minced6 cups chicken stock or broth2 smoked ham hocks (about 1 pound)1 1/2 cups peeled, seeded and chopped tomatoes, canned or fresh3 tablespoons chopped fresh mintSaltFreshly ground black pepper
Pick over the beans and discard any damaged beans or stones. Rinse the beans. Put them in a bowl, add plenty of water to cover, and refrigerate for about 3 hours. Drain the beans and place them in a saucepan with the parsley stems, thyme, bay leaves and cool water to cover by 2 inches. Simmer uncovered until tender, 40 to 50 minutes. Drain the beans, and discard the parsley and thyme stems and bay leaves.
Heat the oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the bacon and onion, and cook until the onion is soft, 10 minutes. Add the garlic, and continue to cook 1 minute. Add the stock, ham hocks and tomatoes, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, and cook until the ham just begins to fall from the bone, about 1 hour. Add the beans, and continue to simmer until the ham falls easily from the bone, about 1 hour more.
Remove the ham hocks and let them cool enough to handle, about 15 minutes. Discard the skin and bones, and cut the ham into 1/2-inch pieces. Add the ham and mint to the soup. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Ladle the soup into bowls and serve immediately.
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