I grew up with ham & beans. and cornbread, but that goes without saying. I have only ever made it one way until this fall, when I decided to kick it up a notch. And then I found that the youngest kid loves this, so there you go- he's been begging me to make ham & beans!
So here's the basic recipe I've been working on this winter. I'm not great at recipes- I hate to measure. And it's soup. Which pretty much means Do What You Want.
Ham & Bean Soup/ Slow Cooker Style
1 package dried beans
Cover dry beans with 2 inches of water and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and let stand for about half an hour. I usually start this before I start preparing everything else, and then they will be ready. Sometimes your beans will come with a ‘flavor packet’. You can add it to the water & beans if you’d like. It's not usually the most flavorful flavor packet, but it certainly won't hurt anything either way.
In the meantime… Add to the crockpot:
* 8+ cups ham broth (see below)
2 onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
Chopped ham - about 2 cups (you can use leftover ham or buy a chunk of ham or ham steak. I’ve done all three)
1 t. Liquid Smoke
2 T. ham broth/soup base (this is a dry product, sold in the aisle with chicken & beef broth)
¼ t. or more black pepper
1 t. Cajun seasoning - We use Tony Chacheres in everything. You may have another favorite all purpose seasoning you like. This one has just a little kick to it. Nothing like that in your cabinet? How about some Frank’s or Tabasco? This is your dinner. Do what you want.
-- adjust seasoning as you like, of course
4-5 slices bacon, roughly chopped
Put chopped, raw bacon in large glass bowl. Cover with a few paper towels wadded up. Microwave 1 minute. Stir with a fork, cook about 1 more minute. Drain partially cooked bacon on paper towels, then add to crock pot. You want to render some of the fat from the bacon, but still want it to impart that yummy bacon flavor to your soup. This is a great technique for any time you want to add bacon to a dish- like baked beans or if you are wrapping jalapenos for the grill. I learned this technique years ago at a grocery store held cooking class. It's one of my go-to kitchen tips.
Add beans to crock pot. Drain & rinse them. You should be able to turn this on low and let it cook all day.
Ok. Every once and a while I cook ham for dinner, and I always buy a ham with a bone. Put your ham bone in a big stock pot, along with a onion cut into wedges and a few cloves of garlic. Maybe a celery stalk if you have some around (the leafy, center part, of course). Leave all that fat that you didn't eat off the ham on the bone, or throw it back in with it to cook. Cover with water, boil, then let simmer for a while. An hour or so, on low. Watch as you may want to add more water to it. You can freeze the broth until you are ready to make soup!