My Grandma called them “Shellie Beans”. The farm stand at Smith Farms calls them “October Beans”. The North Carolina Folklife Institute says that these beans, also called “fall beans” or “speckled beans”, are an assortment of old heirloom shell beans that ripen between the end of summer and first frost. Whatever you choose to call them, these are some Beautiful Beans!
While the Great Depression of the 1930’s was a time of hardship and suffering, my mother would tell me of how blessed her family was at that time. She was continually thankful that she grew up in a farm family. Although times were tough and they had little else, they had their land, their home, and they were able to grow and produce their own food. She had fond memories of the simple meals that sustained her large family during those lean years. She continued to prepare her favorites, even in times of plenty, throughout her adult life.
One of those beloved stand-by meals was soup beans and cornbread. I vividly recall coming home to the mouth-watering aroma of a pot of soup beans simmering on the stove and cornbread, fresh baked, and straight out of the oven.
Over the years, I’ve tinkered around with Mom’s basic recipe, changing it up a little bit, adding some ingredients. Mostly I eyeball and adjust quantities to taste, but this time I recorded my measurements. So, here’s my version.
Delicious! Simple! Beautiful Beans!
- 4 cups beans, removed from pods, rinsed in cold water & drained
- 6 cups cold water
- 4 slices thick cut uncured bacon
- 1 teaspoon bacon drippings
- 1 large Vidalia onion, coarsely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon Better Than Bouillon chicken soup base
- ¼ cup organic raw sugar
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- ½ cup to 1 cup ketchup, depending on your taste
Place rinsed and drained beans in a large soup pot with 6 cups cold water. Bring to a full boil. Reduce heat to medium, boil for about 5 minutes, mostly covered (leave lid a bit askew to prevent boiling over).
Cut the bacon into chunks and fry until crisp. Remove from pan and drain, reserving 1 teaspoon of the bacon drippings.
To the pot of boiling beans, add the bacon, bacon drippings, onion, garlic, chicken soup base, sugar, Worcestershire sauce, and ½ cup ketchup. Stir well, and return to a full boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to low, and cook, covered, until beans are to desired tenderness – about 2 hours.
You may need to add a cup or two of additional water as the soup cooks, depending on the amount of broth you prefer. If you add additional water, you can add additional ketchup as well.
Serve steaming hot with fresh baked cornbread or sweet corn tomalito (sweet cornbread pudding).
Any kind of dried beans can be used in this dish as well. Great Northerns, Pintos, Field Peas – all are very good. If you’re using dried beans, you will need to rinse, sort, and soak overnight, according to the instructions on the bag, prior to preparing this recipe. Or, you can use the Quick Soak method if you’re short on time.
Makes 4 – 6 servings.
Sweet Corn Tomalito
- 5 tablespoons salted butter, softened
- ¼ cup masa harina
- ½ cup organic raw sugar
- 2 cups whole kernel corn – fresh, frozen (thawed), or canned
- ¾ cup milk
- ½ cup cornmeal
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
Fill bottom pan of a double boiler with water and bring to a boil. If you don’t have a double boiler, you can use a large soup pot or Dutch oven and a glass baking dish to accomplish the same thing. See my post on The Great Cobbler Experiment for more information.
In a medium mixing bowl, combine the softened butter, masa harina, and sugar until light and fluffy. In a food processer or a blender, blend 1 cup of the corn with the milk and cornmeal until smooth. Add to the masa mixture and stir. Add the remaining cup of corn, baking powder, and sea salt. Combine well and stir until batter is smooth.
Pour batter into top pan of double boiler. Cover tightly, either with the double boiler lid, or aluminum foil. Lower heat and steam over simmering water for about 50 to 60 minutes, or until firm. Check water occasionally and add more if needed, to prevent bottom pan from boiling dry.
Serve warm, on a warmed plate or small side dish, by the scoopful. A small dollop of sour cream on top is tasty as well!
Makes 6 – 8 servings.