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