Karl’s Ham and Five Beans

My younger daughter, Eilene, has just graduated from high school and she is having a few friends (10) over this week end. Teenagers must be fed, so I have decided to make ham and beans.  One of her friends is meat intolerant (i.e. not a vegetarian by choice), so I will have to come up with something special for him. That will take some more thought.

Karl’s Ham and Five Beans

Karl’s Ham and Five Beans

When Safeway has a half price sale on hams I cannot resist buying one. This is a lot of meat for my three person household, so I sliced it into three ¾” thick ham steaks to freeze. I am left with a large hambone and the grisly pieces at the end.  This has been cluttering up my freezer for months, so today I am getting it out onto a plate. For me this meaty bit always says “Ham and Beans,” but today I wanted to try something different.

Many bean soup mixes have up to 16 different beans. These are a bit of a misnomer, while the ingredients listed are all legumes, they are not all beans—some are peas and lentils. Over the last few months I have been making many bean dishes from several different cultures. This has left me with small amounts of several beans, but not enough to make the dishes I had originally made with them. I have decided to make ham and beans and use up some of these “leftovers.”

Internet recipes for ham and beans range from simply ham +beans +water to others that added 10 or more vegetables, spices and condiments.  I want there to be some vegetables in my beans, but I do not want it to turn into an onion or vegetable soup with beans. I also did not want it to be overly sweet (one recipe called for ¾ cup of brown sugar plus molasses) or over cooked (some recipes called for cooking times of 10 to 15 hours). I have pretty much settled on my basic recipe with Karl’s Ham and Beans, but I will make a few tweaks beyond just adding different beans.

In that recipe, I had settled on a small amount of onion, celery and garlic as my vegetables. I usually do not think that carrots go in this dish, but for this dish I will perhaps add a bit of grated carrot. I don’t mind the sweetness of the carrot I just don’t like large mushy chunks of carrot. I also don’t want the carrot taste to overpower the beans’ flavor.

Whether you brine your bean soak, or not, is a personal choice. Starting to cook with just the dry beans leaves you with very tough skins and a longer cooking time. Salting the beans’ soaking water allows the sodium in the salt to replace the calcium in the bean’s skin, making for a softer hull.  Some people (like Jan) prefer the texture of the tougher chew of unsalted/unsoaked beans. I suspect that these teenagers would prefer a softer texture and, since they are probability not worried about high blood pressure, they will like the saltier beans. Most of the brining salt will be poured off when I rinse the beans, but it will still be higher salt than I generally make for on older dining audience.

You could make this dish on the stove top, if you were careful about avoiding scorching, but I prefer to bake the beans in a large, cast iron Dutch oven at 325 degrees. This recipe made enough to serve 12 as a main dish. And with 11 teenagers I do not expect a lot leftover.

Note about fat: For teenagers there should be no difficulty about having an elevated fat level, but there are several issues about fat to be considered.  First there are the dietary issues. Jan has had her gallbladder removed, so if there is too much fat in a dish it makes her feel ill. There are also a lot of calories in fat, for those of us trying to keep the weight off.  On the other side of the equation, many flavor elements are fat soluble. The fats trap the flavor, lower fat means less flavor. Whether you de-fat your broth or not (step 6) is a personal decision between you, your diet, and your taste buds. For the teenagers I do not plan to greatly reduce the fat level (I won’t leave in large lumps of fat, but I will not skim off all of the fat I that could.

Karl’s Ham and Five Beans


½ cup black beans
½ cup cannelloni beans
½ cup Great Northern beans
½ cup pinto beans
½ cup small white beans 4 tsp. kosher salt (1 Tbs. + 1 tsp.)
1 Large trimmed hambone with extra ham
1 onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
2 stalks celery, chopped (about 1 cup)
¼ cup carrot, finely grated
8 cloves garlic, chopped
¼ cup Karl’s Orange Infused Sugar
¼ tsp. Indian chili pepper
1 tsp. pepper or to taste

½ cup fresh parsley or cilantro, chopped


1. Sort and soak the beans overnight in 8-10 cups water and the salt.

2. Cut large chunks of ham from the bone, but leave some meat scraps attached. If there are large lumps of fat, cut a few good piece off and reserve. Bring the ham, bone and 10 cups of water to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

3. Remove the large pieces of ham from the stock, because you do not want to overcook the ham.  Chop the meat into bite sized pieces, removing and discarding most of the fat. Reserve the ham until latter.

4. Continue simmering the hambone for at least an hour to dissolve the cartilage to make a rich stock.

Note: I simmered the hambone for 3 hours and discarded it when I strained the broth, rather than continuing to cooking it with the beans as I discuss later.

5. Let the hambone cool and remove any meat still attached, add this to the reserve meat.

6. Strain the broth through a sieve and clean the pot of any scum that has collected on the side of the pot.

Note: Normally I would de-fat the broth by letting the stock rest and then skimming the fat that floats to the top into a gravy separator. If you are unfamiliar with these, it is like a measuring cup with a spout that comes out near the bottom. Pour the broth back into the pot, leaving the fat behind in the skimmer. A second method of de-fating is to cool the broth completely and then scoop off the congealed fat. If you were not able to reserve ham fat earlier, you may wish to save 2 Tbs. of this fat for sautéing the onions and celery. 

De-fating the ham broth

De-fating the ham broth

7. In a Dutch oven, render the reserved ham fat (cook until most of the liquid fat is released). Discard the fat chunks.

8. Sauté the onions and celery until limp (about 4 minutes). Add the carrots, garlic and brown sugar and sauté 1 to 2 minutes more.

9. Add the chili power and pepper to the pot.

10. Add the ham broth and enough water to make 10 cups of liquid.

11. Drain and rinse the beans well and then add them to the pot.

12. Bring the Dutch oven just to a boil, put the lid on and place it in the oven at 325° degrees.

13. Stir the beans about every 20 minutes and bake until beans are almost tender about 1 ½ hours.

14. Remove the hambone [see note above] and mash some of the beans against the edge of the pot to thicken the stock. If mashing beans is too slow for you, you may put a cup of beans in a blender and pulse it a couple of times.

15. Add the reserved meat, adjust seasoning, if necessary, and bake 15-20 minutes more.

16. Provide fresh parsley or cilantro at the table as a garnish.

1 Comment

Filed under Main Dishes, Pork, Stews

One response to “Karl’s Ham and Five Beans

  1. Pingback: Karl’s Italian Sausage, Beans and Barley Soup | Jabberwocky Stew

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