Whether or not today’s recipe appeals to you is, I think, going to depend a lot on where and how you grew up. For me, ham and beans is pure comfort food. The mention of it brings back thoughts of home, and thoughts of my mom, who tried for years to make ham and beans that tasted as good as her mother’s. In her mind, she never succeeded -- but she imprinted the taste of her recipe on my memory, so I think she would consider that a success if she were here.
My mom grew up eating food like this, because it’s what her mom grew up eating. My grandma was a child in the ‘30s, and her family was poor. Ham and beans is pretty cheap eats, and so, that’s what they ate.
Last year after Easter, my husband’s grandparents gifted us with tons of leftover ham -- including a ham bone that was just begging to be used for ham and beans. I promptly forgot about it, though, until I cleaned my freezer over the winter and unearthed it way down in the bottom. I found a recipe to use as a jumping off point, and decided to give it a shot.
My mom always used a powdered substance called “ham base” in her recipe, which really concentrated the hammy flavor, if you will, of her beans, but I couldn’t find it in my local grocery store. Despite not having that available, I’m still happy with the result. I love that this recipe utilizes the Crock pot. I think using a ham bone is essential for flavor, which makes this the perfect thing to make after Easter. Using dried beans is essential, too, because they’re so much creamier and sturdier than canned beans. Add some cloves, garlic and onion, and pile it on top of (heavily) buttered corn muffins, and it’s pretty much one of the most comforting, delicious meals I can think of.
It’s funny how something so cheap can be so rich and rewarding, isn’t it?
Crock Pot Ham and Beans
adapted from Food.com
1 pound dried great northern beans
2 tablespoons butter
3 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
1 large sweet onion, chopped coarsely
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Pinch of ground cloves
1 pound ham hocks
1 package finely diced ham
6 cups chicken stock
1. Sort beans and soak in enough water to cover overnight.
2. Bring soaked beans to a boil, boil for 3 minutes, then cover and remove from heat. Allow to sit for one hour after boiling without lifting the lid. Rinse and drain the beans.
3. Heat butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook until softened; add garlic and cook and stir 30 seconds.
4. Put the rinsed beans, onion, garlic, salt, pepper, cloves, ham hocks, and diced ham in the Crock pot. Cover with the chicken stock.
5. Cover and cook on low for about 8 hours, or until beans are tender and creamy. Skim any excess fat, if necessary, before serving. Serve over corn muffins.