Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Old School Ham Bone Beans

Somewhere between a soup and stew, all thick and creamy and soothing, this full bodied and flavorful pot of white beans is all due to the ham bone.
Somewhere between a soup and stew, all thick and creamy and soothing, this full bodied and flavorful pot of white beans is all due to the ham bone.

Ham Bone Beans

I don't know about the rest of y'all but I sure have had a difficult time getting back into the swing this week. I've been busy enough writing new recipes and even cooking, but it's the post writing part that has me pulling off my best procrastination act this week. For instance, I fully intended to have this recipe up on Monday... and here it is already Wednesday. I had it mostly done, I just kept putting off finishing the final cut and the coding that goes with all this website business.

Anyway, I do hope that you have a nice, meaty ham bone and some chunks of ham frozen  from your holiday meal leftovers, just waiting for a great recipe to show up, because these beans are a fantastic way to use them. Soon as I carved up my holiday ham, the bone went directly into the freezer along with 2 big sections of ham, just perfect for beans. I sure love making a pot of beans from a good ham bone on those days when there's a chill in the air.

These beans fall somewhere between a soup and a stew really, all thick and creamy and soothing, like a pot of ham bone beans ought to be. Seriously, this is the absolute best pot of beans and it's got little to do with my skills in the kitchen. The ham bone really is the star.

While slow cookers are great for cooking all sorts of soups, stews and beans, I still love a dish that is slow-stewed, old school style right on the stovetop, something akin to what Grandma might have made, long before such modern conveniences, and store-bought, boxed broths and other nice and handy shortcuts we have available to us today. While I do enjoy those modern conveniences, I kinda like it the old school way of slowly building layers of flavors too. Y'all kinda already knew that about me though, didn't you?

Using the ham bone to create a flavorful stock first, is one of those layers. The addition of a small roux at the end, made using bacon drippings, is yet another. While you can certainly thicken these one pot meals with a bit of a cornstarch slurry added toward the end of a recipe, I've taken to doing a small roux with many of my soups and stews now, and, besides the creaminess I adore, it really does add another bump of flavor to the dish.

Yes, the old school way of making ham bone beans is a process that takes time, and a dish for modern days that is best reduced to weekend cooking for many of us I suppose, but the flavor pay-off is so worth the effort and time, provided you don't try to shortcut it. I hope you put this on your list to try one upcoming chilly weekend. Here's how to make it.

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Recipe: Old School Ham Bone Beans

©From the Kitchen of Deep South Dish
Prep time: 1 hour |Cook time: 2 hour | Total time: 3 hours | Yield: About 6 servings


For the Ham Stock:
  • 1 large meaty hambone
  • Water to cover, plus two inches
  • 2 whole celery stalks (ribs) with leaves, rinsed and cut into large chunks
  • 2 large carrots, unpeeled, rinsed and cut into large chunks
  • 1 large onion, unpeeled and quartered
  • 4 sprigs of fresh parsley
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon of whole peppercorns
For the Beans:
  • 1 tablespoon of bacon fat or oil
  • 1 cup of chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup of chopped celery
  • 1 carrot, scraped and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of minced garlic
  • 1 pound package of dried lima beans or white beans (Great Northern or Navy), soaked overnight
  • 2 slices of thick cut bacon, cooked and drippings reserved
  • 2 cups leftover cooked ham, chopped
  • 1 cup of frozen corn, optional
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons of all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon of kosher salt, or to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon of Cajun seasoning (like Slap Ya Mama), or to taste
  • 1 cup of reserved stock

Soak beans overnight to speed the cooking process. Place ham bone in a large stockpot, along with the remaining stock ingredients, cover with water plus another 2 inches. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 1 hour. Strain, reserving the bone and stock; discard vegetables. Once cooled, pick off any meat from the bone, reserving the meat and discarding the bone. Reserve all of the stock but set aside 1 cup of the stock separate to use for the gravy.

Heat the oil in the bottom of the pot and add the chopped onion, celery and carrot; cook over medium until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, cook another minute. Rinse and sort through the beans, add to the pot, along with the reserved, strained stock.

Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, in a separate small skillet, cook the bacon until lightly crisped, remove and chop, reserving the bacon drippings. Add the bacon, ham and corn, if using, to the beans; simmer for 30 minutes longer.

Warm the bacon drippings, stir in the flour and cook until lightly browned. Stir in the cup of stock you set aside earlier, adding it a little at a time to the roux to make a gravy. Bring to a boil; cook and stir until smooth. Transfer the gravy to the bean pot, stir in, add the salt, pepper and Cajun seasoning, and continue on a simmer, another 30 minutes, or until beans are fully tender. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve as is, or over hot, cooked rice.

Cook's Notes: May substitute 2 to 3 ham hocks for the ham bone. Okay to use frozen, drained, canned corn, or fresh corn that has been cooked, or omit. To make this into a soup, increase the water in the stock to cover the stock ingredients by double.


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Posted by on November 28, 2012
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