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I was born and raised in the southern US, beans and cornbread are a staple here in the south, I have been eating beans ever since I was born I think, been making them longer than I can remember. There are so many ways to flavor beans and cook them. My father uses the same technique, but he uses water and onions, a little salt and that is it. My cousin just pours them into a pot and boils them for about an hour to an hour and a half and there done, no soaking, no onion, no anything but a little salt. But we all eat them with cornbread, whether poured over top of the cornbread in a bowl or like me, buttered cornbread on the side crumbling a little on top of the beans as I am eating them.
- 1 lb pinto beans
- 8 cups no-salt-added chicken broth (low or no-salt)
- 1 (3/4 lb) ham hock
- 1 cup onion, chopped (1 small onion)
- 1⁄2 cup bell pepper, chopped
- 3 -4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
- 1⁄2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1⁄4 teaspoon ground red pepper
- 1 bay leaf
- 1⁄4 teaspoon cumin
- Pick through beans to remove anything odd, rinse and place in a large bowl cover with 5 cups of water with 1/2 teaspoon salt, allow to soak overnight or use the quick soak method, See Note 1.
- Drain and rinse beans, pour into a large stew pot.
- Add broth (see note 2) and rest of the ingredients, bring to a boil on high stirring every couple of minutes.
- As soon as it reaches a boil reduce heat to a very slow simmer, See note 3, Taste the juice and add salt if needed, about 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon, Taste again, they do not need to be salty but just enough to enhance the flavors, You can always add salt at the table.
- Simmer slowly for about 4 hours, stir occasionally and keeping a check on the liquid, it should remain soup like, water is used for any liquid additions but you shouldn't need to thin it, Taste the juice often, Mmm, they just keep getting better, If you want spicier hot beans add more red pepper, or your favorite.
- About hour before serving, if the beans are not as soft as you like then turn up the heat to a slow boil with lid on unless you want to thicken the sauce, stir frequently until the beans are soft then return to the low simmer.
- Before you are ready to serve, remove the hock, allow it to cool and remove the meat, skin and gristle from the bone, chop the meat up and add it back to the beans, discard the bone, skin, etc, also remove the bay leaf. Taste again and re-season if you like.
- To serve, ladle beans into a bowl then ladle some bean juice into the bowl, I love these beans with warm buttered cornbread and skillet fried potatoes, Leftover beans are just as good if not better the next day.
- Note 1 - The quick soak method is used sometimes, even by me, Instead of a bowl use the pot you will cook them in, after picking through and rinsing add the water, bring to a full boil, remove from heat, cover and let sit for one hour, Drain and rinse beans and pot, continue with cooking directions, OK, the difference in overnight and quick soaking, The quick soak will leak some of the flavor from beans, I know this because when beans are soaked in cold water overnight the water will be slightly cloudy with very little taste, when quick soaked the water will be brown and taste like beans, The quick soak is accepted and used often though.
- Note 2 - I use my own chicken broth but canned may be used (I do that too), be sure to use a no or low salt broth, My chicken broth is also about twice the strength of canned so I dilute mine with half water, be sure to take that in consideration if using homemade, you want a mild chicken broth such as canned. 4 - 14 oz cans plus about 1/2 cup of water will be good.
- Note 3 - A very slow simmer is not boiling but you can see very slight movement at the surface, this may take a few adjustments. If you can get this with the lid on great, if not then adjust the lid until you can achieve this, sometimes I have to leave a slight opening in the lid, be sure to add water as necessary to keep it soup like.
- Tip - You can raise the heat to a slow boil if you need your beans to cook faster, be sure to stir often, this will cook the beans in about an hour or so and is OK to do, I just like to slow cook mine for hours to blend all the flavors well, when cooked my way there is little visual evidence of onions, peppers etc.
- Tip - I have mentioned a couple of times to keep the beans soup like, adding water if necessary, I like my beans to have a slightly thick sauce but thin enough to soak into the cornbread, If you like a thicker sauce then leave the lid off the last hour or so until you reach the desired thickness, remember to turn up the heat slightly because removing the lid will cool down the beans and remember this will intensify the flavors, I have also poured beer in to thin, about 1/2 can, that is good to. With this recipe you should not have to add any liquid.
- Tip - If you have found that some beans have stuck to the bottom and scorched, do not scrape or stir the beans now, instead carefully pour the beans into another pot without scraping and continue cooking, this could save the whole pot of beans.
- Tip on meat - I use different types of meat, depending on my mood, ham bone with some ham left on it, many types of sausage, pork loin, beef, venison, I have even used chicken with good results, Meat with the bone on such as hocks will produce a little meat in the beans, feel free to add meat if desired, such as for Red Beans and Rice*, when using raw meat I like to brown the meat in the pot with a little oil before adding the beans, then add the beans and liquid.
- *Red Beans and Rice is a favorite for me, instead of using pinto beans use small red kidneys, keep the ham hock and add 1/2 to 1 pound of good smoked pork sausage such as andouille or kielbasa, serve in a bowl over cooked rice.
- Hey, beans are simple and very versatile, don't let this recipe scare you, don't want onions, then leave them out (although that is against the law here in TX), you want jalapeño peppers instead of bell pepper go for it, leave out the tomato sauce if you like, water instead of broth, well that is your loss but they are still good, unless you over-do the flavors it is hard to go wrong, this recipe is really just a guide on how to cook them, use whatever you prefer in them and enjoy.