Growing up in the East Tennessee Mountains meant a constant diet of cornbread and beans, and it’s still one of my favorite meals. Recently I’ve tried a few variations of “soup beans,” and thought you might like to try this one. Our beans in the mountains were called “October Beans” but the closest I can find in the stores are “Cranberry Beans.” It takes just a few minutes at breakfast, lunch, and supper — and they’re ready. I’m omitted the fat and grease my mother used, so this is a healthy version, but with just a touch of sweetness and only a few ingredients.
Pour one-half pound of dried Cranberry beans onto a light-colored plate and inspect them for stones, rocks, dirt, or shriveled beans. Put them in a bowl and cover with hot water. Let them soak through the morning.
Heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a Dutch Oven and saute
1 medium onion grated
2 small stalks of celery chopped
1/2 red bell pepper chopped
Add five small slices of lean country ham chopped into small pieces — the kind of country ham packaged for making ham biscuits. Then rinse the beans, shake off the excess water, and add them to the pot.
Cover with five cups of water. Stir in:
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 1/2 tablespoons molasses
Place in the oven heated to 250 degrees. Let cook through the afternoon.
Ladle into bowls and serve with cornbread and butter.