February 05, 2005

Someone's in the Kitchen With Dinaaaahhh!!!

This one is about as simple and plain-jane as can be. Down-home country cooking at its best.

Ham and Beans

Right off, I need to mention that in our family, this has always been called "Ham and Beans", no matter what kind of meat is used. You can use cubed ham, or better yet a ham bone with some meat left on it. Sometimes I use a nice chunk of salt pork or fatback, and even thick-sliced bacon will do nicely.

Now, for the beans, you can use whatever kind you like best. For me, I prefer navy beans, though great northern beans are almost as good and in a pinch I'll use pinto beans. It's all good.

Pour the dry beans into a big bowl and cover them with lots of fresh water. You can put 'em in a strainer and run cold water over them if you want before you soak them. So, big bowl, plenty of water covering beans. Leave it alone overnight.

Next morning, drain the beans and then take a few minutes to pick through them and make sure there's no little pebbles or pieces of bean stems mixed in. It doens't happen often, but nothing sucks worse than chomping down on a rock. Flash back to your college days and pretend you're cleaning your stash.

Toss the beans into a big pot and cover with cold water again. Don't put the heat on yet, because you want all the various flavors to blend in, and that works best when everything heats together.

Chop a half onion into small pieces and throw it into the pot. Like onion? Use more or less to suit. If you want, a stalk or two of celery and/or a carrot can be chopped and tossed in with the beans. Add the meat. If it's a ham bone the meat will shred off as it cooks, anything else you can cut into bite-size pieces.

Once it's all in there, turn on the heat.

I like to add a bay leaf and a fresh sprig of thyme (be sure to fish 'em out before eating). I also add a generous amount of fresh-ground black pepper, it's hard to use too much pepper for this. Might as well throw in a pinch of salt and a couple shakes of red pepper for heat if you want. A small splash of liquid smoke has been known to make it into the pot once in a while.

Bring it to a boil, then cover, reduce the heat and simmer for hours, stirring occasionally. The longer the better. After four to six hours the beans are done enough to eat, but I like to let it go at least eight. You can remove the cover for a while or use a little cornstarch disolved in water to thicken it up if you want.

Believe me, this is one of those simple pleasures I talk about.

A good side for this is cornbread. Before baking, I like to mix a chopped green chilie (or a small can of) into the batter for a little zip.

I automatically put aside a big bowlfull for the freezer. It keeps well and makes for a nice treat on a rainy day or the perfect lunch if you're attending the opera that evening.

Posted by Ted at February 5, 2005 09:03 PM
Category: Recipes

Beans beans, the magical fruit
the more you eat the more you toot
the more you toot the better you'll feel
so eat your beans with every meal!

Posted by: Mookie at February 6, 2005 12:09 AM

Here I am, stuck at a job site, without a printer and I come across a great plan for a meal on a cold winter's day...I'll have to try this one later in the week. The local food store has smoked ham parts for pretty cheap, as I recall, I bet that would add a nice flavor as well.

I'll have to post my favorite well-fried/twice-cooked bean mess to my blog.

Posted by: Fred Kiesche at February 6, 2005 04:50 PM

Those who don't want to wait can do much the same is an hour or so with a pressure cooker. (Please read the manual for your pressure cooker before trying this)

My recipe is a pound of black-eye peas, lima beans , kidney beans, etc. (picked and rinsed as above), six cups of water and ideally some country ham. Other flavorings to taste. Takes about one hour with my set-up.

And, not only does cornbread taste good with beans but they have complementary amino acid profiles. Although neither corn nor beans have all the neccessary amino acids for human health, together they do.

Posted by: Jim Gwyn at February 7, 2005 01:14 PM

Thanks for the tip Jim! After seeing the aftermath of a pressure cooker accident, I decided that I really didn't need one in my kitchen. They come in handy for some things, but they scare the heck outta me.

Posted by: Ted at February 7, 2005 01:49 PM

Mmmmmmm. Got a bag o' beans in the cupboard just waiting for an idea to come along. Thanks, Ted! I'll be trying Ham n' Beans on Sunday.

Posted by: Tuning Spork at February 7, 2005 08:59 PM
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