Friday, October 24, 2008

He Knew Beans About Beans

Way back in the old days, soon after I married The Engineer, I had an occasion to make ham-n-beans. Seeing how The Engineer was one of those crazy canucks, he'd never heard of such a dish. The man ate baked beans out of the can for breakfast with ham for crying out loud. You know the stuff here in the Midwest we start a recipe with to take to picnics and potlucks? Very strange. Anyway, sadly, I made the most bland tasting beans you can imagine. I mean that ham had no flavor to it whatsoever. As we sat at the dinner table that night he politely didn't make a single negative comment, he simply asked "Dear, how often will we be eating this dish?" I'm guessing he was praying the answer wouldn't be once a week. Ever since, I've left ham-n-beans off the menu even though I craved them so.

Then the other day, at the blacksmith association meeting, they were serving ham-n-beans. He ate them, and genuinely seemed to enjoy them. I thought to myself, AHA! He's been here long enough now to develop a taste for real beans. Then I ran across a bona-fide cast iron bean pot in an antique store. They were selling it for a song. I remembered Dad always made his beans in a pot just like this and nobody made beans as well as Dad. I brought it home, cleaned it up, seasoned it and set off to make some real beans since I just happened to have a bunch of leftover ham. Dad took his bean recipe with him when he passed away, but I can remember the flavor well. I started doing a little ham-n-bean research and finally put together a recipe I figured would be a good place to begin replicating Dad's beans.

I started out with one pound of a great northern and pinto bean mix. Soak 'em in water over night. I chose those 'cause they were on sale and this recipe is all about being frugal. Dad loved The Frugal Gourmet.

Cook six slices of bacon right in the bean pot. This helps with the seasoning of the cast iron. Good cast iron needs to develop over time to become non-stick. Most believe it helps the flavor too. Remove the bacon, crumble it and set it aside.

Drain all but a smidge of the drippings, then saute about half a chopped onion and two cups of ham just until the onion is tender.

Then add some chicken broth. I happened to have about three cups handy in the fridge. Add water to what ever broth you have to equal six cups of liquid total. Add the crumbled bacon, the beans, 1 1/2 tablespoons of garlic powder, one tablespoon of onion powder, one teaspoon pepper and two tablespoons of dried parsley.

Stir it once and leave it alone. You should not stir beans. I don't know why I just remember you're not supposed to touch 'em. Bring it to a boil then cover and reduce to a simmer. Let it cook for a couple of hours.

I'm pretty sure it's a federal law that you have to serve it with cornbread. So mix up a batch of cornbread, bake it in a cast iron skillet and serve it with butter and a little maple syrup. The saltiness of the beans paired with the sweetness of the syrup is a match made in heaven, let me tell ya.

This time The Engineer claimed it was the polar opposite of the beans he ate years ago. He claimed he'd eat these beans every night of the week. And even went as far to say they were better than the beans we had at the smithy. And I'll even throw in a confession here. These beans are even better than my Dad's!

So, how do you eat your cornbread? Plain or fancied up?


Chicken Herder from Westville said...


Great recipe, I had to save it for future use!

I love your blog, ya know.

Are you anywhere near North Manchester, Indiana?

We have family there and that is where my in laws were from before they both passed away last year.

Jen said...

how do I like them??? I like them to be non existant in my diet, or near my plate or anything. asked.

Christine said...

I'm not sure where North Manchester is, so nope I guess I don't live near there. LOL

Amelia said...

cornbread - lots of butter on it...and made with yellow meal - not that white stuff. I prefer to have a bit of sugar added also..just about a tablespoon.

So glad you found out how to make the beans with ham recipe to please the "Mister" in your life.

Have a great weekend.

Lindah said...

Ah, yes, cornbread and of our favorites. I just bought a ham hock to make up a pot. I'm picky about my c'bread...I want at least as much yellow, whole grain corn meal as flour with buttermilk and NO sugar thank you, served hot and dripping with real butter. Yum. Hub will have a bit of honey with his. Every week is good. Frugal or no.

Renee said...

Oh my. Don't take this wrong, but I can't do anything like this. Very nasty, bad memories. So much that I even hate cornbread (unless wrapped around a hotdog with a stick up it's butt and deep fried.)

Pictures of the bacon were nice though. :-)

LRC said...

Ya forgot to add the carrots! They kind of disapear during the cooking, but you can't have ham and bean without 'em.

Jayne said...

Oh, that recipe sounds yummy! I've been craving ham & beans, too, I guess because it's getting colder. My cornbread has to be yellow meal, not white, and have just a bit of sugar in the mix. Then I smother it in butter and eat it warm. My dad used to crumble his cornbread in a glass of milk.

Milah said...

I like my cornbread sweet and smothered in butter. Your beans sounds good. I add diced potatoes, carrots, onion, celery & thyme 30 minutes before mine is done. I also use smoked ham hock.
My husband likes soup beans occasionally but not as left overs. Once a winter would be fine for him. How about liver and onions? Ya'll eat them?

Kimber said...

Plain with just butter.

Anonymous said...

The reason you don't stir beans, they get all "Musshy" (I think that is a word or maybe not)My Dad always said "The only way to eat cornbread was crumbled in a glass of 1/2 milk 1/2 cream." So who am I to argue with Dad.

Sandy said...

My favorite -- beans & cornbread! I love my cornbread with just butter (and, please, no sugar when making it up to bake)! Yummmm!

Christine said...

No liver and onions here. said...

We use beef bacon and certainly the cast iron kettle. We love beans. Just the other night we had carribean red beans over rice and LOVED it. I'm trying to make more bean-based meals because they are inexpensive and easier on the ol' budget.

Love the pictures! Thank you for the recipe!


StitchinByTheLake said...

Corn bread not made in a cast iron skillet is not corn bread. It's...well, I'm not sure but it's not corn bread. I like it crispy on top and bottom, split and slathered with real butter. Yum! blessings, marlene

Carol said...

This is without a doubt one of my favorite meals. But I need a little honey butter with my cornbread. I will have to try your recipe. I have not put bacon in mine and it sounds very good.

Thanks for sharing.