Each region of the South has their own variations on cuisine. As an Appalachian, I ate a lot of beans, greens and cornbread growing up. And I still do- I probably make a big pot of greens, a pot of pinto beans and a pan of cornbread once every couple of weeks, especially during the winter. I love this meal.
Not as much as my maternal grandfather though. He ate lots of beans, greens and cornbread. Papa Bruce was a doctor, and believed that a big bowl of greens would cure whatever ailed you. So when chilled by blustery March winds, try some beans and greens to warm your soul, and according to my Papa Bruce, cure your allergies!
For the greens-
- Put a couple cups of chicken broth in a big pot, and bring to a boil with a couple tablespoons of olive oil.
- Add your greens. I prefer collards, but it’s really a matter of personal preference. Now you no longer have to go through the rigmarole of washing all the sand off the greens. You can just buy a bag of greens in the salad section. Maybe not as farm to table, but it sure is convenient.
- Add about a teaspoon of sugar and a teaspoon of baking soda to the greens. The baking soda makes them sooo tender.
- Now, I was going to be good, and make heart healthy greens with no meat. But I had this hunk of country ham just staring at me, dying to make good pot likker with these greens. I acceded to the ham’s wishes, chopped it up, and added it to the pot.
- So for the beans, get a hunk of country ham. I’m lucky to have Benton’s right down the road, so I used that.
- After rinsing them off, soak a bag of pinto beans in cold water overnight.
- Drain the water, cover again in cold water, and toss your country ham on top (about a quarter of a pound or so). Cook. Cook. Cook.
Seriously, bring the beans to a strong simmer and cook for an hour or so.
- Meanwhile, throw a big can of whole maters in a bowl and break them up with your fingers. It’s a mushy job.
- Next, chop an onion. I like a rough chop since my eyes were watering so bad I could not see for ten minutes, because it’s a rustic dish.
- Sauté the onion and a couple clove of garlic in some olive oil until they are soft.
- Add the tomatoes and cook for about fifteen minutes.
- Then add the tomato mixture to your beans.
- Cook for a couple hours til the beans are tender. Add more water if necessary, as the beans should be pretty soupy to dip your cornbread into.