I don’t know exactly what makes these beans “country beans” except that it’s what my Grandma and Grandpa Wallace called them. He from Oklahoma and she from Arkansas, I suppose they would be an authority on what might be considered “country”. There were always beans in their house. They were a bit more basic than this recipe but they were always there. Always ham hocks and always “pink beans”. My grandpa Jim had already had a heart attack, in fact he was sporting one of them fancy pig valves for as long as I can remember. I think he enjoyed telling me that too. As a result of the heart issue, my grandma had tossed out anything that even remotely resembled salt… The beans were bland. They were always there, though and those people were a constant source of love and adoration in my life when I needed it most. So, I didn’t notice the bland so much. Since the country beans were always there, I just figured they really liked them. Liked them so much that they had a very large wooden bin out off of the back porch full of them. You know, the kind that they fill with garlic or onions and stack up on flat bed big rigs? Yeah, that big. Grandma would shoo the mice away and dip into the dry beans with a big metal cup scoop and “get another pot of beans soaking'”. Only as an adult did I realize that the beans were ever present, not out of love but necessity. They didn’t have a lot of money and from what I understand, his heart issue kind of forced the hand of early retirement. He had worked for Panella, a huge trucking company and they lived on their property. They lived in what my grandma called “the big house”, but there were two houses on the property, one WAS big but not the one they lived in. It was just a regular house, smallish even. It was their “big” house, though. The biggest and best they’d ever had. It was a great house, a happy house. It was a house filled with love. It had a climbing tree, a barn, chickens, cats, horses (they belonged to the Panella’s) water mellon on the grass, sprinklers to run through, laps to sit on and always, a pot of beans.
You will need the following:
- 1 pound of dry beans, any kind you prefer but I like to buy a pre-mixed pound or mix them myself. This time I used kidney, navy and pinto beans.
- 1 large smoked ham hock, if you don’t do pork most markets sell smoked turkey breasts and thighs. They are delicious and will give the desired smokey flavor.
- 5 carrots, diced
- 5 stalks of celery, diced
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 red onion, chopped
- 3 bay leaves
- 5 cups chicken or vegetable stock. Of course you made your own FREE vegetable stock, right?
- In a large heavy bottomed pot, add your beans. They should be rinsed and free of debris.
- Cover them with enough water to double the volume. Let them soak over night, covered. They will soak up nearly all of the water and will double in size.
- Give them one final rinse and discard anything that floats.
- Shove the ham hock deep down in the middle of the beans and add all the ingredients. Bring them to a boil over medium high heat. Once boiling, reduce heat to low and let simmer for about 3 hours, stirring occasionally.
- Once the beans are tender, the liquid should be thick and soupy. S&P to taste. Pull out the ham bone and remove the meat from it. Discard any cartilage or fat and if you don’t have a dog, offer the bone to a friend who does… The dog will thank you!
Serve this up with pan of cornbread if you like, but it’s equally as good with saltine crackers. I know that because that’s how I ate them quite often sitting at the table with two old country folk who loved me. Swearing Mom out.