Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Start with dried beans. At night, wash and sort out any bad beans and cover with water. Dried beans will swell to twice their dried size, so cover with plenty of water. In the morning, drain and wash beans.
Put in a 4 to 6 quart heavy cooking pot and cover with water. Add a cured ham hock for the best flavor. You can use country ham slices, thick sliced bacon or side meat, but make sure it's cured, not just smoked.
On high heat, bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer for 4 to 6 hours. Add more water if necessary, until beans are soft. (A good Southern cook would never serve hard beans.) By this time, the beans will be a soft, light brown. If your beans turn dark, the water in your area probably isn't good for cooking beans.
Taste beans when done to see if they need more salt. Sometimes the ham hock is sufficient to season the beans. Some cooks also add a pinch or two of sugar or a dash of catsup for flavor. A big pot of beans can be warmed day after day until all gone. They get better the more they are warmed. The soup in them will get thicker with each reheating.
For your convenience - Cook beans in a crock pot. If you start it in the morning before you go to work, they will be ready when you get home for supper.