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What's Cooking.... [Dec. 26th, 2011|11:41 am]
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Bean soup.   Over the course of several holidays we've eaten a bone-in ham down to the bone.  Ham-bone = bean soup in my brain's personal collection of "learned from my mother" recipes.   I have a bean jar (old pickle jar) in the pantry, that I fill with a mix of bean types (because I like a mixed-bean soup)  when it's empty: one bag each of (at least) kidney beans, a white bean, black beans, spotted beans (which can include black-eyed peas, or pinto beans, or the pretty red-and-black spotted kind, or--if we've grown any--scarlet runner beans, which are a beautiful white splotched with purple.)  Last year we didn't grow any beans, due to the water restrictions.

This time the bean varieties included black-eyed pea, kidney beans, black beans, baby lima beans, and a second spotted bean (red & black spotted.)    Because I had three ham bones in the freezer to deal with (but only two would fit in the pot)  I used the 12 quart pot, which is now full of 2 ham bones, 2 quarts dry beans partly swollen up from soaking, and an onion.   Needs another onion, some garlic, and some herbs.   My Aunt Rena (a Dutch aunt, but no less my aunt for that!) used to say that beans could not have too much pork (ham bone or salt pork), too much salt, or too long cooking...I know others disagree, but her beans were incredible when you thought you were coming down with a cold, or had a sore throat, or life had gone dull and flavorless and not worth bothering with.   I have gone out to their trailer when feeling next door to rotten, had a mess of her beans and cornbread, and come home feeling I could lick tigers singlehanded. 

This will make way more bean soup than we want to eat all at once (it would take days) but having pulled the ham bones out of the freezer, there will be room for some containers of bean soup.

One ham bone from a 9-11 pound ham  with some shreds of ham on it will season 4 cups of dry beans.   With salt pork or bacon, you'll have to figure your own amount (I used to use salt pork, because we rarely had a ham; it does the job but is best if you cut it up in small cubes.)  The hams you usually get aren't that salty, so you'll also need to salt it to taste.   One medium onion, diced, per ham bone/4 cups of dry beans.  At least 6 cloves of garlic per ham bone/4 cups of dry beans/onion.   Soak the beans at least a couple of hours in cold water, drain, rinse, and put into a big pot with the ham bone, diced onion, garlic.  Cover with water, bring to boil, turn down to simmer.   I add peppercorns, a bay leaf,  whatever other herbs smell good with that batch of beans and ham (depends in part on what I used on the ham when cooking it.)  Later on, I may add mustard. 

The foodie "al dente' thing is not to be considered.  If a bean doesn't melt in your mouth, it's not cooked enough: boo hiss on breaking a tooth or even a floury "dry" interior.   You should feel the beans as individuals, but no more than that--silken skins, lush interiors.  Black beans are the slow-pokes in most bean mixes...and though they eventually melt into a wonderful meaty flavor, the floury stage is not to my taste at all.   Long, slow cooking....checking the black beans preferentially, since they're slow to finish.  The liquid should be thick, opaque, delicious on its own without a bean in it.  Pot likker, it was called in my childhood.  

Cooking a mess of beans with ham reminds me why it's so wrong to put beans in chili.   Beans and pork are a natural pairing...beans and beef get along fine, if the beans have been cooked with pork.   Beans served beside chili--great.  Beans who've never been embraced by  pork withhold some of their goodness from (to a bean) mere beef. 

Cornbread is good with bean soup, of course.  Pork, beans, and cornbread...ahhhhhh.   But any bread stout enough to dip in the pot likker is good with bean soup.   If in serious danger of a cold attack, put a slug of pico de gallo or other hot sauce in the bowl--scour those virus particles right off your mucus membranes.  If you have enough bean soup, and an immersion blender, take some of it, with little of the liquid, put it in a tall container, and make it into a sort of mush.  Best bean dip you ever put a tortilla chip into.   I  made a bean soup with black-eyed peas and some leftover lentils once, and tried out my new immersion blender on it...wow.  We sat there eating bean-soup-dip on anything we could scoop it out with: chips, dry bread, and finally off spoons.


[User Picture]From: tracey_claybon
2011-12-26 06:48 pm (UTC)

Your family bean soup sounds wonderful!

My family tended to make collard or mixed greens too with the soup bones too - but I agree with you - bean soup is the best thing ever. I'm actually making a lentil and chickpea combo today that will cook while I'm at work today.

And I agree as well - chili with beans? Sacrilege! :)

I hope you and your family had a Merry Christmas!
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[User Picture]From: alicephilippa
2011-12-26 08:09 pm (UTC)

Re: Beans and chilli

Over this side of the pond, folks think it strange to have chilli without beans. I've never been[sic] convinced that the bean works in chilli. I'm glad to find out I'm not being strange.
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[User Picture]From: fair_witness
2011-12-26 08:30 pm (UTC)

I had a good portion of chicken carcass left over from yesterday's dinner, so it's been sitting in the fridge awaiting the soup pot today. Nothing like the smell of soup to fill the house.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2011-12-26 09:05 pm (UTC)
OK...I've been trying to answer comments, but my comments hang up. Just so you know.

On beans in chili: I come from a no-beans part of the Southwest, but when a hungry student used to put beans in chili to stretch it. Also only had one pot suitable for either beans or chili. Reverted when I could afford to. I was told (by a NM non-native, so don't know if it's true) that in New Mexico chili doesn't have anything but the stewed peppers and maybe onions. The great divides I'm familiar with on chili are beans v. no beans, and tomatoes v. no tomatoes. I'm on the no beans, but tomatoes, side of the divides, though I like chili with no tomatoes better than chili with beans.

Beans should be in another pot (though refried beans are also OK) where they've been cooked with a chunk of salt pork (usually).

Chili with mayonnaise, sour cream, mushrooms (yes, I've seen all these and more suggested in magazines from Somewhere In The East)...is not chili. Vegetarian or turkey chili is not chili. It's chili-flavored vegetable or turkey stew. I'm hard-line on these. Chili can be made with beef, venison, elk, bison, or moose meat. The best EVER (in my opinion) is made from venison or range beef, though bison would be a close second.
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[User Picture]From: controuble
2011-12-27 12:41 am (UTC)
Mmmm...venison chili is awesome.
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[User Picture]From: melissajm
2011-12-26 11:06 pm (UTC)
Red and black spotted beans? Neat!

You don't want to know what I call "chili." ;)

My mom often makes ham and bean soup for New Year's. It's fantastic.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2011-12-26 11:35 pm (UTC)
We'll probably eat this for New Year's...there's certainly enough of it. Not solidly all week...I'll cook something else so we can alternate, probably chicken--but bean soup on New Year's is traditional in our family, too.

The baby limas are being exactly what I don't much like about lima beans (floury) but otherwise it's good, and I needed to use that bag of limas. Still not sure why I bought them, knowing they're not a favorite. Navy beans, now, those are a good white bean.

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[User Picture]From: controuble
2011-12-27 12:39 am (UTC)
I know what you mean about cooking the beans and mashing to paste - greatest dip. I cooked a couple pounds of black beans last week and since I don't have an immersion blender, I used my hand mixer. After soaking and cooking the black beans I mixed them in a large bowl with 1 small can V-8, garlic, cumin, taco seasoning, and about 2/3 of a pint of garlic salsa (a can of Ro-tel would probably have worked, too.) Took to the in-laws for Christmas dinner last night and they loved it.
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[User Picture]From: cailleuch
2011-12-27 11:23 am (UTC)
My "what to do with a ham bone" is always pea soup (green split peas). With lots of onions, celery and potatoes and add thyme, garlic and bay leaves for a great multi day feast. It does all depend what you learned to cook from your mom or other. </p>

I may need to get a ham for New Year's so I can make soup.

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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2011-12-27 02:36 pm (UTC)
Split pea soup is also good, but...we like beans better. My mother liked peas (split pea soup or the fresh peas) a lot. I hated peas, as a kid, came to like them better as I got older (esp. eaten fresh out of the garden) but peas do to my innards what beans do, only more so. Last spring I ate a lot of peas off the vine and...well...I won't eat that many peas off the vine again. (But they're so gooooood!)
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From: sheff_dogs
2011-12-28 12:53 am (UTC)
Winter savoury is fantastic with beans ...

My mother cooked pease pudding with the ham bone and stock. As the rhyme says you can eat pease pudding hot, pease pudding cold, pease pudding in the pot seven days old. Though with five brothers I don't recall it ever making seven days. I prefer a good pea or bean soup with some substantial bread myself.
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From: (Anonymous)
2011-12-28 05:31 am (UTC)

I don't suppose...

...you have a good cornbread recipe? I like it not too sweet, and one that doesn't crumble to bits when buttering is attempted. Been searching for a really good one that uses some alternative flour, but I'll use cornmeal and whole-grain hard white wheat flour if that's what works.

Hopefully yours,
Gretchen in Minneapolis :)
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2011-12-28 06:05 am (UTC)

Re: I don't suppose...

No, I don't...sorry. I prefer a sweetish cornbread, agree with you on the crumbling (but they all do, unless soggy...ugh.) I'm not a super cornbread fan, though Aunt Rena's and my mother's were both good.
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[User Picture]From: 90sbondgirl
2011-12-28 01:02 pm (UTC)
We must think alike: I just made beans, rice and cornbread for dinner last night. Good stuff, but since we aren't down to the ham bone from Christmas yet, I used smoked garlic sausage, also good eatin'. Pintos, always pintos. Otherwise it is "bean soup" and a totally different critter at our house. I agree wholeheartedly on the texture and doneness of cooked beans.
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[User Picture]From: amm_me
2011-12-29 04:07 am (UTC)

corn bread

Having had occasion thrice over the holidays to make my grandmother's cornbread to considerable appreciation, I will give it here. (Willie Elspeth Chumley Miller, 1881-1976, grew up on Sand Mountain in northern Alabama, was one of the first women graduates of Auburn, came to Texas to marry a fellow Auburn graduate, raised three small children alone after his early death, and helped raise 8 grandchildren for a good long time. I was 25 when she died at 96; I hope but don't really expect to go so long.)


Oven at 400, or up to 450 if you're in a hurry
well-seasoned 8" cast iron skillet, with 1 pat up to 2 Tbsp butter sizzling

2 cups cornmeal in large bowl
1 cup buttermilk and one beaten egg in small bowl
1/2 tsp soda, 1/2 tsp up to 1 tsp salt, and (if you really have to have sugar in your cornbread) 1 tsp sugar mixed in a tiny bowl or cup

Pour 1 cup boiling water over the meal and mix till as much as possible of the meal is moistened.

Dump the soda/salt/(sugar) mix into the buttermilk and egg. Mix very briefly and pour into the damp cornmeal. Stir only until barely mixed, pour into the hot skillet, and put in the oven.

Bake till slightly brown on top. (Around 22-30 minutes depending on oven heat.)

Remove from oven, turn upside down onto a plate, cut into wedges, and serve immediately. Split horizontally to put in more butter.
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[User Picture]From: amm_me
2011-12-29 04:14 am (UTC)

Re: corn bread

The scalding with the boiling water makes it less crumbly. I prefer my cornbread with no sugar, but you can probably use more than a teaspoon if you like it sweet. Putting the leavening into the buttermilk sounds weird, but it works -- you just have to do everything briskly from then on, so that the soda doesn't waste all its energy bubbling the buttermilk.
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