Last year, I made a ham for Super Bowl Sunday and was never happier than I was with that choice for a big game day spread. Rolls and biscuits, butter (think a sorta-kinda American jambon-buerre, though ham and biscuits -with butter- is a world unto itself in the American south), spicy mustard, all the cheese you’d need, and tons of pickles. A few basic sides…oh, wings, of course… and we were good to go. But the best part may have been what came a couple of days after the baked ham, which was a big pot of ham and beans with a fresh pan of hot cornbread.
While I’m not a football fan, I’m happy to provide the halftime food, reading the Sunday New York Times for the rest of the afternoon while everyone else yells at the tv. And if you’re skipping game day all together, as some do, you can still make my ham and beans because they’re good just about any time and not much is simpler to cook or clean up as it’s a one-pot meal.Jump to Recipe
There’s nothing like ham and beans to make you feel rich. It’s one big potful and what’s not to like? The house smells like a few different holidays all put together for the entire day. No one will go home hungry (you have plenty), everyone will be warm, and there’s always cornbread. As my friend Sue says, however, “Ham and beans is not to be confused with Bean Soup.” I think that came from her dad, Ken, and it’s true. There’s bean soup — all brothy with lots of vegetables and beans, of course, and then there’s ham and beans — a little broth and a whole lot more beans with only a little vegetables. To be exact, there should be twice as many beans in ham and beans are there are in bean soup. At least that’s as close as I can figure; no one ever said that as far as I know. Last year I made my ham and beans in a big pot on the stove and they were delectable, comforting, and fed us several times. Even though we were in a VRBO, I found a couple of storage containers and froze some. This year, looking at a small ham in my refrigerator that needed using and figuring I had not much time that day, I threw the whole kit and caboodle in my 6-quarter slow cooker minus 1/3 of the liquid. Worked wonderfully–YAY!! My new go-to. And while you might not know that, it’s one of the well-known secrets of switching a stovetop recipe over to slow cooker. You need a lot less liquid (and less spices like cayenne or crushed red pepper) as the slow cooker keeps a tight lid on the meal –sealing in moisture and seasonings– while the stovetop pot bubbles merrily away, evaporating, cooking down, ramping up flavor, and thickening to its heart’s content.
That all said, as I watched my pot do its wondrous work all on its own (don’t you love slow cookers?), I thought about what a delicious and easy game day meal the ham and beans themselves would make. A nice switch from chili or pizza, I’m guessing your family and friends will appreciate the changeup. Your wallet will appreciate a total cost of $15-$17 for 10-12 servings. Scroll down for instructions about making them ahead and reheating for game day.
For other ideas about creating slow cooker versions of your kitchen favorites and for info on slow cooker safety, read on here:
Master Your Slow Cooker with These Tricks/FOOD52 (I use a light-weight cotton towel between the lid and the slow cooker–usually at one end–to absorb moisture so it doesn’t bubble and drip onto the counter.)
MAKING HAM AND BEANS AHEAD AND/OR TRANSPORTING THEM:
You could make the beans on Friday or Saturday (since Super Bowl’s on Sunday), cool, and transfer them to a pot for storage in the refrigerator. (Cooking way ahead, you could cook, cool, and freeze them 2-4 months before. Thaw overnight in fridge. )1 1/2 hours or so before you serve or before you need to leave if you’re super bowling elsewhere, fill the slow cooker with warm water and turn it on high to get the insert or crock hot. (It’s not considered safe to warm food in a slow cooker.) Soon after, heat the beans in a pot on the stove until they’re bubbling hot, stirring regularly, and adding water if they become too thick. When both pots are hot, dump the hot water out of the slow cooker and, in the sink for safety, pour the hot ham and beans into the now empty and hot slow cooker insert. Add the lid and carefully return the covered full crock to the slow cooker, plugging it back in and turning it on to low or high, as needed.
If you’re going elsewhere, let your host know ahead of time you’ll need a spot on an empty counter near an outlet. Secure the lid of the slow cooker full of beans by using large rubber bands from the side handles to the handle on the glass lid if you don’t have a locking mechanism on your cooker. See photo at left. Wrap well with a couple of old large towels and place in a box where it hopefully fits fairly tightly. This will help contain any spills. Do put the box on the floor of the back seat for safety as even a fender bender could send a hot pot flying. After arriving, check box and towels for spills, remove slow cooker from box, and set it on the counter. Plug it in, turning to low or high, as needed. Before serving, stir, and taste for seasonings one last time. A thoughtful guest might bring a ladle along with disposable bowls and spoons. If you don’t need them, back home they go.
Ham and Beans will be good in the fridge for 3 or 4 days and in the freezer for 4-6 months.
Now that you have a good handle on making ham and beans, try this for a simple and easy one-pot meal:
SLOW COOKER Ham and Beans
- 2 pounds white navy or great northern beans-washed and picked over. Soak overnight in water to cover plus two inches or boil for 2 minutes and rest, covered, for an hour. (I prefer the great northern beans here.)
- Hambone with some ham OR 2 cups diced ham
- 1- quart low sodium chicken broth
- 2- quarts of water – or more as needed as beans cook
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt-plus more to taste
- 1 teaspoon black pepper-plus more to taste
- 3 bay leaves
- 2 large yellow onions, diced
- 1 each: celery stalk with leaves and large carrot, cut into small dice
- 3 whole cloves of garlic-peeled
- Handful minced fresh parsley
- Hot sauce – optional and to taste
- Red wine vinegar – optional for garnish when serving
- Add all the ingredients except hot sauce and red wine vinegar to a 6-quart slow cooker. Cook on low 8 hours or until beans are tender, checking half-way through to add water if they're too thick. If at altitude, cook on high for the first 2-3 hours to make sure the beans get done. Taste and adjust seasonings, add hot sauce if you like. Serve hot with a splash of red wine vinegar and buttered cornbread. (If you’d like the beans thicker, remove a few cups of the cooked beans when done. Purée them and return to the pot, stirring well.)Ham and Beans will be good in the fridge for 3 or 4 days and in the freezer for 4-6 months.
NEED OTHER IDEAS FOR SUPER BOWL?
LIFE GOES ON:
Like much of the rest of the U.S., we’ve had some bitterly cold weather here in the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains-quite unusual for us, though it does happen. I see today (Sunday, February 5) this freezing front reached the east coast and it’s even colder in Boston, for instance, than it was here. Last Monday, I never ventured out. Luckily there was chili in the freezer because I need chili when it’s that cold.
Thanks for keeping me company in my kitchen; it means a lot to me.
If you haven’t already, listen to Bonnie Raitt sing “Just like That,” the 65th Grammy’s Song of the Year. Trigger warning for those who’ve lost a child or children.
Stay warm and cook some beans or cook some beans and stay warm — whichever comes first,
P.S. Thinking about Valentine’s Day and cooking at home? Great idea! Restaurants are expensive and a mess on Valentine’s Day. Go some other time. I like this salmon dish and while it looks complicated, it’s truly not. Just take it one step at a time. You make the mash and cover it in the pot on the stove. Chop up the pesto and set that aside. Cook the salmon and the asparagus at the same time, turning the burner on under the mash for the last couple of minutes to reheat it. Unsure about cooking all this together? Make the mash and the asparagus the day before so all you have to do is heat them up while the salmon cooks –which is like 4 minutes per side.