My sister, Karen, and her husband are coming for Christmas and staying a few days. With my sister visiting I will be bringing back some of my best dishes of the year to see if I can make them even better.
Last week I bought a half ham. I cut it into steaks, this leaves a ham bone with the fatty skin and gristly bits at the end. This bone is perfect for making a pot of ham and beans.
As I go along making dishes I find myself with partial bags of ingredients. In themselves, they are not enough to make a dish without buying more of the same. Sometimes, I do not want to do this. The alternative is to combine like ingredients. The last time I made this dish I used five beans. It was such a success that today I thought I would use six beans.
To soak or not to soak, that is the question. Soaking the beans reduces the cooking time by re-hydrating the dried beans. It also evens out the cooking times, when you are combining large and small beans. If you just start boiling the dry beans together, the small beans will be over cooked before the large beans are fully re-hydrated.
Many recipes call for soaking the beans overnight in salted water and then discarding the soaking solution. The salt replaces some of the calcium in the bean hulls, giving you a tender, seasoned bean. The disadvantage is that you wash away much of the beans color and some of the vitamins, giving you a grayish, less healthy, final dish.
The solution is the “quick-soak” method, “quick” being a relative term here. When I have a ham bone I make a ham stock the day before. I refrigerate the stock over night and skim off most of the congealed fat. The ham adds a fair amount of salt to the stock and I add just a bit more. To quick soak the beans you add them to the stock and bring it just to a boil. Covering the pot and removing it from the heat, you let the pot sit for three to four hours. At the end of this time the beans are re-hydrated and ready to cook.
Tip: Of course, you cannot have ham and beans without cornbread.
Note about fat: 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 this dish I won’t leave in large lumps of fat and I will skim off about half of the fat that remains in the broth.
Correction Note: (1/22/14) As I was referring to this recipe today, I found that I had left the instructions for soaking the bean out of the directions.
Karl’s Ham and Six Beans
1 Large trimmed ham bone with extra ham, about a pound of meat
½ cup black beans
½ cup cannelloni beans
½ cup Great Northern beans
½ cup pinto beans
½ cup small pink beans
½ cup small white beans
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
3 stalks celery, chopped (about 1 cup)
½ cup carrot, finely grated
8 cloves garlic, chopped
¼ cup Karl’s Orange Infused Sugar
¼ tsp. cayenne
1 tsp. pepper, or to taste
½ cup fresh parsley or cilantro, chopped
1. The day before you intend to make your beans, cut any large chunks of ham from the bone, leave some meat scraps attached. Bring the ham, bone and 11 cups of water to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
2. 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.
3. Continue simmering the ham bone for at least an hour to dissolve the cartilage to make a rich stock.
Note: I simmered the ham bone for 3 hours and discarded it, and the fatty skin, when I strained the broth. If you wish you can continue to cooking the bone with the beans, as I will discuss later.
4. Let the ham bone cool and remove any meat still attached, add this to the reserve meat.
5. Strain the ham stock through a sieve and clean the pot of any scum that has collected on the side of the pot.
6. Put the ham stock in a covered bowl and put it in the refrigerator overnight. All of the fat will float to the top and congeal.
7. In the morning, skim the fat off most of the fat (see the note above). Reserve two tablespoons of this fat for sautéing the onions and celery.
Note: If you have to make your ham stock on the same day you can de-fat the broth by letting the stock rest and let the fat float to the top. Scoop the stock at the top of the pot into a fat separator. This will allow you to remove much of the fat. 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.
8. Sort and rinse the beans. Put them in a pot, with the salt and 5 cups of the ham stock.
9. Bring the pot to a boil and then remove it from the heat.
10. Cover the pot and let it rest for at least one hour.
Tip: This is the quick soak method. I have experimented with many ways of cooking beans and this is my preferred method. First, you do not have to think the day ahead for an overnight soak. And, second, the vegetable do not get cooked to death from the long slow cook you have to do when you start with un-soaked dry beans.
11. Add the reserved fat to a large Dutch oven and sauté the onions, celery, and carrots until limp (about 4 minutes).
12. Add the garlic and sugar and sauté 1 to 2 minutes more.
13. Add the cayenne and pepper to the pot.
14. Drain the beans and add them to the pot. Reserve the soaking stock.
15. Measure the soaking stock and add the rest of the ham broth and enough water to make 10 cups of liquid.
Note: If you boiled the ham bone for only one hour, you may want to add it to the pot at this point. Continued cooking will release more of the collagen in the bones cartilage to give you a more unctuous mouth feel. If you have boiled the bone for more than two hours this is not necessary.
16. Bring the Dutch oven just to a boil, put the lid on and place it in the oven at 325° degrees.
Tip: I always prefer to cook things like beans in the oven rather than on the stove top. The bottom up heat of the stove has the constant risk of scorching the beans at the bottom of the pot over the long cooking time. The all around heat of the oven removes this risk and cooks the beans more evenly.
17. Stir the beans about every 20 minutes and bake until beans are almost tender about 1 ½ hours.
18. Remove the ham bone, if necessary, 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.
19. Add the reserved meat, adjust seasoning, if necessary, and bake 15-20 minutes more.
20. Provide fresh parsley or cilantro at the table as a garnish.