This has been the most rainy summer I can remember – and cool. I’m not going to complain too much though because summer heat makes me miserable. Summer is usually my least loved season. We did most of our fall garden planting and the rain is good for those freshly planted seeds, but knocked us out of taking Deladis to see a movie for her birthday yesterday and lake swimming. The weather and being tired of too much zucchini, squash, lettuce, and cucumber in our diets contributed to my wanting to make what, for us, is typically a cool weather supper.
Soupbeans and cornbread is an Appalachian staple. I can’t remember a time when it wasn’t in my diet. It was hard for me to understand how so many people I encountered from outside of this area didn’t have a clue as to what it is. Soupbeans are commonly confused with bean soup, which is a very different dish.
Soupbeans and cornbread was a meal that was born of necessity. With hard times came, the need for cheap and nutritious meals. Beans and corn meal were things that most people kept on hand or were easily acquired. Mountain cooks worked their magic and made this a meal that is not only extremely cheap, but absolutely delicious. It is my favorite Appalachian meal, and we certainly enjoyed it last night.
Soupbeans (not to be confused with bean soup): Feeds a family of four for about 2 days
- pinto beans (2 cups dry)
- bacon fat and/or salt pork (fatback)
- salt and pepper
To begin, soak 2 cups of dry beans in enough water to cover them over night or preferably 24 hours. My grandmothers called this “getting the gas out”. They were exactly right. Soaking makes the beans easier to digest and causes less bloating and gas. I like to soak my beans long enough so that they sprout. I have noticed this takes the unwanted side effects of beans completely away and cuts down on cooking time. On the day of cooking, put the beans in a large stock pot. Cover the beans with water, then add as much water as you want for soup. Cut up some onion and add to the pot. Add salt and pepper to your preference (I use unrefined sea salt for valuable nutrients.) Then, the most important ingredient is added – fatback and/or bacon fat. Traditionally, this was a piece of fatty pork cured in salt. If that wasn’t available grease from the morning breakfast would suffice. Most often bacon grease is what I have on hand and I use it generously. Bring the ingredients to a boil and then, turn down the heat to a low-medium. Cook the beans until they are a light reddish-brown color and soft. This will take 2-4 hours.
The food accompanying soupbeans are just as important as the main dish. Soupbeans are traditionally served with cornbread. The cornbread is often eaten as a side, and another piece broken up into the beans to sop the soup. Sauerkraut is a great addition to a bowl of soupbeans. I can’t have this meal without making fried potatoes and onions. Both of these foods were traditionally served with soupbeans.
A great plus is all of these food items are very cheap. This meal can easily cost under $10 and will feed a family of four one meal for around two days. It is a hearty meal, but I warn you… it’s very easy to overeat because it is so very good.
Take a look at my page of favorite recipes to see how to make my cornbread. I hope you enjoy this beautiful Appalachian meal created out of our great ability to “make-do”.