New Year’s Ham & Beans

Welcome 2013! Happy New Year Everybody. Today signals the end of the holiday season. Tomorrow we head back to school and work and ugh…those resolutions we made to better  ourselves. To ring in the year, we decided to make a family dinner that echos a Southern US New Year’s tradition. Black-eyed peas, traditionally cooked with a pork product, diced onion and served with pepper vinegar is a dish thought to bring prosperity for the coming year. Wikipedia posits that this tradition dates back to the civil war era when Union troops sweeping through the south took all edible food stuffs they could find but left the peas that they considered animal fodder.

Today’s dinner will stray a bit from that tradition and reflect my family’s Canadian roots. Dinner this New Year’s Day is baked beans and ham. Beans require a long cooking time and despite using the same recipe time and again they do not always turn out the same. The texture can be more toothsome or soft, and the colour can be dark or less so. I am not sure what makes this difference but can only surmise that it lies with the beans themselves. Sunday dinners growing up often included a crock of beans and would not be complete without my mom declaring the beans “ruined”.  She was serious and I am still unclear what constituted ruined beans, but ruined they were, and delicious. Ruined beans have become a family joke.

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The ham was a small, bone-in ham that needed to be baked.  With 30 minutes left to go, we scored the outer skin of the ham and brushed on a glaze made from a wonderful maple syrup aged in bourbon barrels, grainy mustard and thyme.

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With a nod to Southern classics and our travels, leftovers will end up in a breakfast of ham, biscuits and red eye gravy made from the drippings of tonight’s ham. Stay tuned next week.

Baked Beans (Ruined)

3 cups white pea beans
1/4 pound salt pork, fatback or salted pork belly, cut in 4 peices
2 cups chopped onions
3/4 cup ketchup
3/4 cup molasses
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 tbsp. dry mustard
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 28 ounce can tomatoes

Servings/Yield: 8 servings
1. Rinse beans and discard blemished ones.
2. In a dutch oven, cover beans with three times their volume of water. Bring to a boil; boil gently fro 2 minutes. Remove from heat; cover and let stand for 1 hour. Drain, discard liquid.
3. Return soaked beans to pot along with 3 times their volume of fresh water. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, covered for 45 minutes. Drain reserving 1 cup of cooking liquid.*
4. In a 16 cup casserole, combine beans,  pork, tomatoes, onions, ketchup, molasses, sugar, mustard, and pepper.
5. Bake covered in a 300℉ oven for 2 1/2 hours. Uncover and bake for 1 1/2 hours longer.

*Check on the beans periodically and add some or all of the reserved water if necessary or if you prefer looser beans.

I do not know where this recipe originated but it has been transcribed over at least three recipe scrapbooks for close to thirty years. It is quite simple and I like it because it does not require overnight soaking of the beans.

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