Growing up in North Louisiana, beans were a staple of our diet. As a child, the best smelling dish my mom made was a big, ole pot of beans, which simmered on the stove for hours during the day. Many afternoons, I’d get off the school bus, run to the house, fling open the door and have this heavenly smell wash over me as soon as I crossed the threshold. Little did I know that this tasty and filling dish was also frugal, which is probably why it was a staple on our table once a week.
Now that I am an adult, specific foods and dishes trigger memories for me. On overcast days, with rain spitting from the sky and a chill in the air, I can still hear the onions sauteing in hot bacon grease, the beans being poured into the pot, followed by the gallon of water streamed in to create a medley of flavors that marry together into a simple, but succulent dish. With one whiff, I am transported back in time to a rural Southern town, inside a modest white house, which is surrounded by trees so tall they appear to touch the clouds.
I have created my own version of my mom’s dish that is still simple, frugal and delicious! Instead of simmering on the stove all day, I use my crock pot, which is one of my go-to kitchen appliances. In this dish, my momma used pinto beans or kidney beans. In my pantry, glass jars display a virtual rainbow of colors and house several varieties of legumes: speckled pinto beans, black beans, red kidney beans, garbanzo beans, navy beans, lima beans, black-eyed peas, various colored lentils, & green split peas. Then, there is the “leftover jar”. You know, those random amounts that won’t fit into the proper container. With this stash, I instantly have a mixture of legumes ready to be transformed into a big ole pot of beans.
Mama’s Pot of Beans
- 2 ham hocks, a ham bone, or 6-8 slices of diced salt pork
- 1 onion, diced
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 bell pepper ,diced
- 2 spears of celery, diced
- 1 can of Ro-tel tomatoes (tomatoes with chili peppers)
- Seasonings to taste: salt, pepper, garlic powder, chili powder, cayenne pepper, Creole/Cajun blend, Herbs de Provence, etc.
- 5-6 shakes of Worchesteshire sauce
- 1/4 cup of tomato paste
- 3 T of Beef “Better than Bouillon”
- 1 lb of beans (Use one kind or make a mixture using black-eyed peas, pintos, black beans, lentils, garbanzo, etc.)
Place all ingredients into crock pot. Fill 2/3 the way full of water. Cook on High for 6 hours or low 8-10 hours. When beans are soft to taste, stir in the beef “Better than Boullion” and season to taste with additional seasonings, if necessary.
If cooking on the stove, soak beans in water to cover in a large saucepan overnight; drain. When ready to cook, add other ingredients. Bring to boil. Reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 1 1/2 hours-2 hours or until beans are tender, stirring occasionally. Check seasonings before serving.
Serve over steamed rice or with cornbread. (Momma used to make this amazing cornbread, which had cheese and diced jalepeno peppers stirred into a basic cornbread batter. Delicious!) I like to add pickled peppers, such as pepperoncinis, to my bowl of beans. YUMMY!
This dish is pure Southern comfort food.