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Up here, in the mountains of the south, we know that soup beans and bean soup are not the same thing. Soup beans is a term common in the Southern United States, particularly the regions around the Appalachian Mountains. It refers to pinto or other brown dried beans cooked with smoked pork as flavoring. Soup beans are usually served with cornbread and considered a main course, but can also serve as a side dish. In rural areas, where food was scarce during the winter, these dried beans were a staple food. I grew up on soup beans and every southern cook has a different way of making it. This is my version which is a combination of the way my Grandmother, Granny, and Mom made it. I like to use a pressure cooker to speed up the process, but you can use a regular pot, just keep an eye on the water level so it doesn't boil down. You have to crumble cornbread in it when you serve it for that down home authenticity.
- Follow directions on bean bag for presoaking the beans.
- Drain and rinse beans, sit aside.
- In the pan melt butter (or bacon grease) over medium heat. Cook onions and garlic until soft and lightly brown.
- Add beans, ham hock, and water to pressure cooker. Put on lid and seal. Bring heat up to high.
- Once pressure has been reached, reduce heat to low and cook for 30 minutes.
- Remove the pressure cooker from heat and release the pressure with a quick release method. Remove the cover and test beans for doneness. If necessary cover and return the pot to pressure and cook for another 5 minutes.
- Remove the ham hock from the soup. Discard the skin and bones. Chop the remaining meat and add it back to the soup.
- Season with additional salt and pepper if necessary. Serve hot with crumbled corn bread.