To make a basic ham and bean soup, first parboil the beans and let them sit for an hour; then, make a ham stock from a ham bone and aromatics in the same pot. Simmer the stock for at least an hour, and then remove the bone and add meat.
The aromatics used in a basic ham and bean soup include bay leaf, carrots, celery, onion and garlic. Mustard powder adds tang, while white pepper adds spice, according to AllRecipes.com. Adjust the aromatics and seasonings to your own taste. For instance, the recipe for ham and bean soup on SimplyRecipes.com omits mustard and white pepper, but adds parsley, Tabasco and Italian seasonings.
Alternately, choose different types of beans to customize the soup's flavor and texture. While white beans or Great Northern beans are used in the aforementioned recipes, butter beans and black-eyed peas are other staple soup beans. Black-eyed peas are associated with Appalachian culture and soul food, while butter beans are a mild alternative to savory white beans.
Another option is the 15-bean ham soup mixture, as sold by the N.K. Hurst Company, which includes black beans, red beans, kidney beans, navy beans and pinto beans, among others. In addition to the beans and the included seasoning packet, Hurst Beans recommends adding ham hock, onion, tomato, lemon juice and garlic. A small amount of chili powder adds heat if desired.