Seems like I’ve been doing a lot of reminiscing lately. But then I always get emotional during the holidays. I’m not sure if it’s the result of exhaustion or missing those who have gone home to heaven ahead of us or just the waves of fond memories of holidays past. All I know is that the Holidays bring out a mixture of joy and sorrow with just a pinch of anxiety for good measure.
Dad’s not a spring chicken anymore. While I want to have him near and dear in my life forever, his age is beginning to catch up to him. Dad is in his eighties now, and he’s not getting around with the same spunk he once did. The cows at the family farm are all gone. At his age caring for a herd of cows got to be too much. We were concerned when he made the decision to sell off the cattle. Dad is a Dr. Doolittle of sorts with an amazing ability to connect with animals, almost as though he can speak their language. His cows were like giant dogs that came running when he whistled. (Don’t get me wrong – these were NOT pets. He birthed them, raised them, gave them all cute names and then we ate them). Caring for things, be it the cows or the garden, kept Dad busy and spry. Not having animals to care for beyond the barn cats left a void in his life and his heart. That’s when Dad took to goats – much easier than cows (and those we don’t eat). He has one in particular, his name was George and he walked with Dad on a leach up and down the country roads. George is gone now, but Dad still has his little herd to care for.
Lambs have been added to the farm collection. I’ve threatened to make lamb chops out of them, but I got out voted and now they aren’t lambs. I had also suggested we milk them, (love goat and sheep cheese – yum!) but again I’ve been out voted. Dad’s got a bunch of Billy Goats – a lot of good those will do! The biggest reason for keeping the sheep and goats is that they will eat anything and everything, including all that pasture grass, so Dad doesn’t need to keep up with caring for the fields.
In my need to reminisce and take long strolls down memory lane, I also like to reinforce those beautiful memories with foods of my childhood. I know it’s a Southern thing to have Black Eyed Peas on New Year’s Day. Dad grew up on Black Eyed Peas. It’s a taste I’ve never quite adapted to – preferring the flavor and texture of Pinto or Pink Beans. Every year, Dad saved the ham bone from Christmas and would make a big pot of Ham Bone and Beans for New Year’s Day. I’m not sure when or why he ditched the Black Eyed Peas for a blend of pink and pinto beans, but I’m glad he did. When I left home, I continued the tradition of beans on New Year’s Day. Kiddo grew up on Smoked Ham Bone and Beans with a big slice of cornbread. These days, I don’t bake the ham, so I don’t get the bone. We make a big pot of Chili Beans with a side of cornbread. Up until recently, it was completely done from scratch (sorting through the beans, giving them an overnight soak, then slow cooking all of the following day). Recently, I’ve taken to a short cut that is almost as good. Still, sometimes I miss the Smoked Ham Bone and Beans of my childhood. This year, after the holidays, I picked up a ham on sale. Naturally, we saved the bone. Smoked Hams are the best for this recipe. They lend a depth and flavor that compliment the texture and tastes of the beans.
Smoky Ham Bone and Beans
1/2 Cup Pinto Beans
1/2 Cup Pink Beans
1 Medium onion, cut into large chunks
1 Ham Bone, with plenty of meat still attached (save your Christmas Ham)
3 Cups Water
Salt to taste (add at end)
Pepper to taste (add at end)
Pick through beans, rinse with cold water to remove any dirt. Place in a large pot and cover with cold water. Let beans soak overnight.
Drain water from pot and rinse beans. Return to pot with 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Lower heat, add onion and let simmer until beans are tender but firm, about 3 hours, adding more water as necessary.
Add ham bone and any additional ham left over from Christmas. Simmer for 1 hour. Allow sauce to thicken during final hour of cooking time.
Remove bone from pot. Pick off any ham remaining on bone to add to the pot.
Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Serve with warm cornbread and a simple salad.
Suggested Cornbread recipes:
For a Sweet, Cake like Cornbread try Northern-Style Sweet Corn Bread
For a more traditional, skillet Cornbread go with Good Ol’ Boy Southern Style Cornbread