Cookin’ up a Big Pot of Ham Bone and Beans

Seems like I’ve been doing a lot of reminiscing lately. Dad’s not a spring chicken anymore. While I want to have him near and dear forever – his age is beginning to catch up to him.  Dad is in his eighties now, and he’s not getting around with the same spunk he once did. The cows at the family farm are all gone – at his age caring for them got to be too much. We were concerned – Dad is Dr. Doolittle of sorts – his cows were like giant dogs that came running when he whistled. (Don’t get me wrong – these were NOT pets. He birthed them, raised them, gave them all cute names and then we ate them). Caring for things, be it the cows or the garden, kept him busy and spry. Last year Dad took to goats – much easier than cows (and those we don’t eat). He has one in particular, his name is George and he walks on a leach up and down the country roads. Lambs have been added to the farm – I’ve threatened to make lamb chops out of them, but I’ve been out voted. I’ve also suggested we milk them, (love goat and sheep cheese – yum!) but again I’ve been out voted. Dad got a bunch of Billy Goats – a lot of good those will do! The biggest reason for the sheep and goats is that they will eat anything – including all that pasture grass, so Dad doesn’t need to keep up with caring for the fields.

I know it’s a Southern thing to have Black Eyed Peas on New Year’s Day. Dad grew up on Black Eyed Peas. It’s a taste I’ve never quite adapted to – preferring the flavor and texture of Pinto or Pink Beans. Every year, Dad saved the ham bone from Christmas and would make a big pot of Ham Bone and Beans for New Year’s Day. When I left home, I continued the tradition. Kiddo grew up on Ham Bone and Beans with a big slice of cornbread. These days, I don’t bake the ham, so I don’t get the bone. We make a big pot of Chili Beans with a side of cornbread. Up until recently, it was completely done from scratch (sorting through the beans, giving them an overnight soak, then slow cooking all of the following day). Recently, I’ve taken to a short cut that is almost as good – Cheater’s Chili To Rocks in the New Year. Still, sometimes I miss the Ham Bone and Beans of my childhood. This year, after the holidays, I picked up a ham on sale. Naturally, we saved the bone. It’s in the freezer now. I’m not sure just when I will get around to cooking up a pot of Ham Bone and Beans. Maybe some time after the Super Bowl. I didn’t want to wait that long to share this childhood recipe – just in case you have a ham bone in your freezer. Smoked ham works best; imparting a wonderful flavor to the beans and broth.

Ham Bone and Beans
1/2 Cup Pinto Beans
1/2 Cup Pink Beans
1 Medium onion, cut into large chunks
1 Ham Bone, with plenty of meat still attached (save your Christmas Ham)
3 Cups Water
Salt to taste (add at end)
Pepper to taste (add at end)

Pick through beans, rinse with cold water to remove any dirt. Place in a large pot and cover with cold water. Let beans soak overnight.

Drain water from pot and rinse beans. Return to pot with 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Lower heat, add onion and let simmer until beans are tender but firm, about 3 hours, adding more water as necessary.

Add ham bone and any additional ham left over from Christmas. Simmer for 1 hour. Allow sauce to thicken during final hour of cooking time.

Remove bone from pot. Pick off any ham remaining on bone to add to the pot.

Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Serve with warm cornbread and a simple salad if desired.

Suggested Cornbread recipes:

Good Ol’ Boy Southern Style Cornbread

Northern-Style Sweet Corn Bread

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