Beans and Cornbread

Beans and Cornbread.  It’s that simple.  Well maybe not that simple.  But easy, you can do it.  Beans are delicious, super healthy and extremely cheap.  Here’s my family’s southern style beans and cornbread recipe.  My grandmother was from Oklahoma and her cornbread was not sweet and kinda crumbly.  My great-grandmother used to refer to sweet cornbread as “that Yankee cornbread.”  Needless to say we don’t do sweet cornbread in this house (I turn my head in disgust when Robert tries to put butter and honey on his).  To serve this you crumble the cornbread on top of the soupy beans.  You can make this vegetarian, just omit the ham and use a whole onion cut in half in it’s place (this would be my mom’s favorite because even though she’s not a vegetarian she has a thing about having no meat in her beans)

Here’s how to make it.

Serves:  4-6 people


1 lb dried beans (about 2 cups)

1 ham hock

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1 tsp salt (more if you are not using a salty piece of ham)

I used Dragon’s Tongue beans from our summer garden but any beans will do.

Since this is the last of my summer’s reserve (need to grow more next year) I will probably buy pinto beans next time I make this.  Put the beans into a large dutch oven and add plenty of water, so the beans are covered by 2 or 3 inches.  You don’t have to measure this because the water is discarded.  Let the beans soak for 8 hours or overnight.  Discard the water, wash well.  Sandy beans are bad.

Put clean beans back into the dutch oven and  about 6 cups of water.  You will probably need more  so keep checking it.  Add ham hock or any leftover piece of ham.  I used the bone from our holiday ham (that I froze).  Then crush a clove or two of garlic with the back of a knife and add to the pot. Do not be tempted to salt the beans.  My sources tell me this makes the beans tough.  I admit I have never eaten a tough bean but I don’t want to find out.

Bring to boil over high heat, then reduce to a simmer.  Simmer for 2 1/2 to 3 hours or until beans are soft.  In the last 30 minutes of cooking, start the cornbread, so everything finishes at the same time.

Before serving beans add salt and pepper and a splash of vinegar.

The beans can quickly run out of water so be sure to add more as they cook.  Here the beans are finished and I probably added another cup or two of water before serving.


1 3/4 cups corn meal

3/4 cup flour

1 Tablespoon Baking Powder

1 teaspoon salt

3 Tablespoons sugar

1 egg, beaten slightly

1 cup buttermilk or milk, plus enough to make the batter thin

Combine the dry ingredients and stir.  I used my handy dandy whisk from King Arthur flour. Now add the egg and buttermilk.  Add more buttermilk to thin out the batter.  Isn’t that so vague.  This is what the original recipe says and I always have to add more buttermilk but I live in a dry climate.  You want the batter to be somewhat like cake batter.  It will pour out of the bowl but only with some assistance from a spatula.

Add about a tablespoon of oil to a cast iron skillet and swirl.  This step is important.  Once I pulled the patina off the pan when I forgot to add the oil.  That made Robert a little unhappy, since he graciously let me use his baby.  Now add the batter and level.  Bake for about 15 -20 minutes.  My original recipe said “Bake until golden.”  I have found this to be about 5 minutes too long because when it gets golden it gets a little too dry.

Serve with cornbread and a piece of ham.

If you cooked your beans nice and slowly then your beans will not be cracked or exploded but nice and plump.

Now crumble that cornbread and enjoy!

6 responses to “Beans and Cornbread

  1. Harold Dean

    You have your cornbread recipe just about right. My mother used to say that cornbread was made from white corn meal and flour and the yellow stuff was called corn pone or sweet corn pone. Difference in the beans was she only used the small navy white pea bean (yield was greater for a family with 11 kids during WWII). It is true about not salting the bean water as it will make it tough but if you soak the beans overnight after washing them this will eliminate the toughening of the skin. They are best when they are starting to sprout. To eat, chop a fresh tomato and fresh onion in your bowl before adding the beans and then the cornbread. You will love it this way. Here close to us in Oakland Illinois for years we used to have a corn bread and bean festival in conjunction with the old threshers reunion where the cooked the beans with steam from the steam engines used to drive the threshing machines. Political correctness has over came them and they no longer have the steam engine festival and now it is a corn and bean festival. So sad what time brings about. Enjoy and keep with it. One final word of caution, we have found the hocks available in most of the stores to be of a very poor quality and some of them even spoiled so we have taken to using smoked pork chops when we cook our beans now if we don’t happen to have a ham bone to use. Harold Dean

  2. Great tips Harold. I think you’re on to something about the lower quality ham hocks. Robert told me this batch of beans was much better than the last batch and guess what – I used a store bought ham hock last time. And I did have to pick through them to find a good one. I can’t wait to make them again so I can try adding onion and tomato. Thanks.

  3. Harold Dean

    You will never go back to the old way without the tomatoes and onion. One tip is the onion prevents excessive gas. The pill sold as Beano is a mix of onion and garlic oil in a binder. It really makes no difference what kind of dry bean you are cooking, this is the way to go at it. On the green beans, be they podded or green limas, Mom always used smoked sausage to cook them in along with a little butter and I have never tasted anything as good. My wife insists on using margarine (I cant believe its not butter) these days, but they are just as good with it as they were the butter. I kind of follow the Jeff Foxworthy thereom, if you can’t fry it in bacon grease it ain’t fit to eat. If you can’t flavor it with that whether fried or boiled he is right. One year when I harvested our beans (1/4 of an acre of several different varieties) I did not have time to individually pick and shell the dry beans and the neighbor was combining his soybeans. He told me he would run my beans through the combine for me if I pulled the vines up and piled them so he could run the combine through them to pick them up. I had to go do other chores and was not watching the result, so after going to all the trouble to separate the beans by variety, he just run through all of them and bagged them together. I had navy beans, pink beans, cranberry beans, pinto beans and black beans all interspersed with a few remaining soybeans from his hopper. I was beside myself with fear that I would be punished for this transgression. (My Dad was a very mean person and spankings consisted of a sound beating with whatever was handy). My Mom said it did not matter and that year all of the beans cooked were a mixed variety. Never tasted better beans in my life and although I worried about the soy beans (too high in protein and can make you seriously ill if not kill you), there were not enough of them to make that much difference. I know that oriental cuisines are adjusted to soybeans but these are all rendered and protein reduced as they extract the protein for other uses and tofu is the remainder just like corn flakes are the remainder of the wet milling operation where corn syrup and corn oil is extracted. Now in the stores, you can find packages of 7 bean soup that are just about like my error back in 1949. Harold

  4. This is what I grew up eating and the photos take me back many years. I must confess, I have never cooked beans and cornbread myself because my husband did not grow up on this so we usually just get them at my parents home.
    Growing up, we always served the beans with chow chow. The chow chow was not like anything that you can buy in the store these days, we always canned our own. The chow chow was made from green tomatoes (that we picked from the fields ourselves), green cabbage, onions, salt, sugar and cloves. Often times it was just my grandpa and I at the kitchen table with a hand shredder making chow chow, but usually the whole family got involved. There was always great excitement in the kitchen during that time.
    Thanks for sparking a great memory with your pictures of those wonderful beans!

  5. Thanks Donna. I spotted a recipe for chow chow in a canning book. It was very unusual but I think there’s had mustard in it because it was bright yellow. Did yours have mustard? I sure would love to have your recipe. It sounds like an interesting relish using lots of things that I can grow in my garden. Let me know if you run across the recipe.

  6. Hi Courtney,

    Yes, there are lots of chow chow recipes ranging from red to green to yellow in color. Ours had mustard seed in it, and it was a medium green. I am trying to get someone to remember this recipe! It was a ‘Burke’ family recipe which is my dad’s side, but somehow it was always my mom in the kitchen taking care of business when it came to canning the chow chow. When Grandpa and I would make it, he did most of the work, I just cranked away on that shredder!

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