Thursday, September 26, 2013

Suppertime - Soup Beans!

I've been workin' on a project for a while and want to begin to share a few things that will be part of the project.  It is a book and CD combination that will be called "SUPPERTIME".  It is mountain stories, reminisces and good ol' down home recipes from family and friends.  The CD won't be a fancy studio recordin', but is being recorded around the table.  I've already started the recordin''s with friends and it is goin' to be wonderful.  You can hear the clink of glasses and plates faintly as they talk.

So, for today a simple but important recipe and a lesson for city folks and Yankees.  SOUP BEANS!

Soup beans have been a staple for mountain folks for many years, cheap, easy to dry and store and
full of flavor and nutrition.  Meat was often hard to come by and fresh meat was seldom seen years ago.  Mountain families often had a hog or two roamin' the hills and during the fall they would wait for "hog killin' time" , that is to say, cool weather that would be good for butcherin' a hog without spoilage.  Soup beans with a ham hock, fatback, hog jowl (jowl bacon to some) or a big ol' ham bone made good use of the leftover parts from a meal.

In addition to addin' a little meat to the soup beans, the bone and meat will have a little fat for flavor as well as addin' salt.

Please note, and this is important; Soup Beans means only one kind of bean in the hills - PINTO BEANS!  The bean is spotted like a pinto pony and this is the REAL bean for Soup Beans.

The recipe for Soup Beans is simple!

Place your beans in a pot and wash well.  There are often little rocks in the beans, so sift through them as you wash them, also toss any nasty lookin' beans.  I don't want to eat a nasty ol' bean.

Cover the beans with plenty of water and set them aside to soak overnight.  Some folks don't do this step, but I think it makes for a better pot of soup beans.  They plump up and absorb the water.  Also, some of the natural starches leech out and makes the beans (and you) a little less gassy.

Next day pour off the water, fill the pot and put on the stove on a medium low heat.  I like to cook beans low and slow.  Add some salt and pepper.  I do this by feel, but I'd say at least a tablespoon of salt at this point and maybe a teaspoon of pepper.  You will taste it as it cooks and can add seasonin' as needed.

I add my ham at this point.  I often have a big ol' ham bone that came from a Sunday dinner or maybe Easter or Christmas.  Some folks add some bacon grease if there isn't much fat on the piece of ham or ham hocks you add.  That is up to you and you can add bacon grease at any time for flavor.

As it cooks I stir it occasionally and add water as needed.  If you soak the beans overnight you won't add as much water as they cook.  Cook the beans for all day is usually how I cook them.  I want them to be thick and not soupy/watery when I eat them.

DO NOT STIR A LOT!  Over stirrin' will break the beans up and you will have mush.

That is the basic recipe that you would find back home.  I add a little garlic and a small onion chopped well to mine.  Gives it a bit more flavor.

Now, don't forget the cornbread an' an ol' onion to go with it.  If y'all are real mountain folks you might want a big ol' cold glass of buttermilk!

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