About this blog...

Food has been an important part of my life for as long as I can remember. Food and the festivities surrounding its arrival to the table has always been a focal point in our family. For many years I have been amassing the cookbooks, recipe cards, cooking journals, diaries, manuscripts and clipping files of our once extensive family.

Personally, I’ve been professionally involved with food for over 40 years in numerous and varied culinary capacities across the country so I also have the collected stories, as well as current and on-going food-related experiences from my own life I’d like to share.

My idea has long been that someday I would bring all of this marvelous raw material together into a culinary journey through our family’s heritage. This journal is the beginnings of that journey.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Ham and Beans

I finally had the chance last week to use one of the ham shanks I'd cured and smoked a few months ago.

We were entering a very busy stretch as we approached the grand finale of this year's  kidding season with 10 does expected to kid within 5 days.  This was, of course, on top of our regular milking, cheese-making and other ranch duties.  It was more than the two of us could handle well so we asked some people Kathryn had met while giving a talk to a 4-H group if they wanted to help out.
Both the mother and daughter wanted to help over the course of the week but each had various schedule conflicts during that time so it worked out that one would come for a few days, then the other would come for a few days then the other would come back again for the big finish.  They would be staying in our Bunkhouse overnight (as there is no telling at what time of day a goat is going to kid) and we'd be supplying meals etc.
We expected to be ridiculously busy even with their help so I wanted to have a number of easy, heat and eat meals ready to go. One of the meals would be based on a big pot of Ham and Beans that I could make up a few days in advance and then just re-heat to serve.  This use is perfect as Ham and Beans improves with a day or so of letting the flavors marry and meld after  it is first made.
The way I make Ham and Beans it can either be eaten like a thick stew or thinned down a bit for a soup.  I personally prefer the stew but either way it is a full and satisfying meal, especially accompanied by something like a pan of cornbread hot out of the oven.
Ham and Beans
1. Rinse, clean and soak 1 lb of dried small white beans in triple their volume (or more) of cold, clear water for at least 12 hours.
2. Drain and rinse the beans in fresh water then put in a pot and cover with about three times their volume of clear water.  Cover, bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer.  Cook several hours until the beans are just tender but not soft or falling apart.
3. While the beans cook prepare about 4 cups of mirepoix, roughly equal parts of 1/4" diced carrots, onion, and celery.
4. When the beans are at the tender stage, add a smoked ham shank or two (depending on how meaty they are). Add more water to almost  cover the shank if necessary.
5. Simmer until the meat begins to loosen from the shank bones.  Add the mirepoix and continue cooking until the meat falls off the bones and the veggies are tender. Remove from heat.

6. Remove the shanks and meat from the stew.  

      When cool enough to work with remove all of the meat from the bones.  Pick through it carefully, removing all sinew, veins, cartilage etc, then cut the meat into 1/2" pieces. 
7. Skim any fat that has risen to the top of the stew.  Add the meat back to the stew and re-heat to eat or chill for later use.

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