Beans & Cornbread
Jeff and I just returned from a vacation in Banner Elk, NC to view the fall foliage.
Banner Elk is in The Smokies, a part of the Appalachian Mountains. With a Scottish heritage, I have always felt akin to Appalachia first settled by Scottish immigrants who remained as the mountains reminded them of Scotland’s Highlands.
As we set off on our trip, I was determined to find the perfect Appalachian recipe for my blog and newsletter this week. After researching the web and studying the local menus, 2 foods kept popping up. Pinto Beans and Cornbread. Lucky me!! I’m a pro at Pinto Beans and have a great recipe for Southern Cornbread. So with the weather cooling off and my youngest home from college, it was a perfect weekend to cook up a pot of beans, bake some cornbread, and make sure my recipes were just right for my readers and loyal No Time 2 Cook fans. So in honor of my Appalachian roots, here goes:
Recipe Type: Main Dish
Serves: About 2.5 quarts
- 1 pound dried Pinto beans, sorted for rocks and rinsed well
- 1 large onion chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic minced
- Bay leaf
- Pinch of sugar
- 1 meaty ham hock
- 2 quarts chicken broth,ham broth, water or combination of all three
- Black pepper
- Chicken or ham base for salt flavor to taste (I prefer Better Than Bouillon)
- 14 oz smoked sausage (quartered, sliced, and browned or cubed ham (optional)
- Cover dried beans, onion, garlic, and ham hock with liquid. (About 2 quarts).( I always have chicken and ham broth in my freezer as whenever I bake a chicken or ham, I always boil the bones and freeze the broth. I will also crack the bones with pliers for a richer broth halfway through the cooking. If you don’t have broth, you can get a decent flavored broth with water and Better Than Bouillon Chicken or Ham Base. I keep these in my refrigerator at all times) (About soaking beans: I have come to the conclusion that you lose too much flavor soaking beans so I no longer soak. The only down side is they take a little longer to cook maybe by 30 minutes and that’s just not worth the loss of flavor)
- Add a pinch of sugar, the bay leaf, and season the broth with black pepper and bouillon base.
- Cover and simmer beans for 3-4 hours until tender. Watch throughout the cooking time and if water level drops too low, add more broth or water.
- As beans begin to soften, tweak with more black pepper and bouillon base.
- The last 30 minutes you can add browned smoked sausage or ham cubes. If you’re pinching pennies, you can omit these ingredients.
- Remove ham hock and allow to cool enough to handle. Remove ham from the bone, chop, and return to the pot. Discard bones.
- The longer you cook the beans, the thicker your broth will become. You can also mash some beans against the side of the pot with a spoon to thicken the broth. I personally like a thinner broth. That’s how my Mama made pintos and she served them over a slice of white bread. Her family came from Arizona so I assume that’s how they ate them there. My Louisiana family and friends, serve there’s over rice and use red beans instead of pintos and red pepper instead of black pepper. In Appalachia, pinto beans would be served with a side of cornbread.
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