Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Soup Beans and Cast Iron Skillet Cornbread

Comfort and my grandma are the two words that come to mind whenever I think about Soup Beans and Cornbread.

Which is what us Southern people call it; my daddy and his family are from Kentucky--about the farthest south and farthest east you can get without living in that teeny, tiny sliver of Virginia.

However, Mr. B calls it our "poor man's" meal.

I guess he's not wrong; the ingredients are fairly cheap and it's easy to feed a crowd. I never thought of it as a poor man's meal, and the first time he said it I was kind of offended. I wouldn't consider my family poor. I never went without anything I needed. It's just I remember Grandma had a pot of beans simmering on the stove quite often. We didn't have it all the time, not every day, but I do remember eating enough of it, thinking I might actually turn into a bean. Because of this, soup beans and I have a love-hate relationship. With the first signs of fall, I start craving this warm, comfort meal, and I must make it immediately. Mr. B isn't a huge fan, you know with growing up on canned green beans, Hungry Jack potatoes, and "pork chops so thin you could read a newspaper through them" <---his step-father's exact words, not mine. (wink-wink)

Needless to say, I'm the one eating these leftovers. And I do. Every last bit. I'm sure it would help if I didn't make enough to feed a small village, but, yes, I eat them. And then I don't want to see another soup bean until February.

I always make Grandma's soup beans and cornbread (never one without the other, and in that order) in February. It's when I miss her the most, and in making this meal I feel closest to her. If soup beans are on the stove and cornbread is in the oven, Grandma's not so far away.

And it's probably the easiest meal to make, next to cinnamon toast in the morning (which my family can eat by the loaves). The beans are easy to double or triple, depending on the number of mouths, and you just put them to a simmer on the stove and check back every now and then. The perfect meal to celebrate Homemade Soup Day.

Grandma Bays' Soup Beans & Cornbread
*serves a crowd (easily adaptable to feed however many people you need, just add more beans and water)

3 c pinto beans
4 slices thick bacon, chopped
salt and black pepper
oregano and garlic powder

Give the beans a good rinse and pour into a big stock pot. Cover the beans with 3" of water and set to boil on the stove. Once boiling, cover and simmer 2-3 hours. (DO keep an eye on it, adding water as needed! The beans are done when soft.) Meanwhile, make the cornbread....

1 c corn meal
1/2 c flour
1 tsp salt
1 c buttermilk
1/2 milk
1 egg
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 c shortening, melted (plus extra for greasing skillet)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Melt a tablespoon or so of shortening in a cast iron skillet. Combine corn meal, flour, and salt in a mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, combine milks and egg, and pour into dry ingredients, mixing with a fork. Add baking powder and baking soda, stirring until combined. Add ¼ cup melted shortening, stirring constantly. Pour into hot, greased cast iron skillet. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until set (golden brown on top).

And then back to the beans....when the beans have about 20 minutes to go, add in salt and pepper to taste. I like to add a little bit of oregano and garlic powder to mine, but use whatever fits your fancy.

I like to top mine with a dollop of sour cream or Greek yogurt.

With Love and God Bless,

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