Easy Comfort Food: Ham and Beans

It’s cold outside. Another Winter storm is coming. You’ll probably be confined to the house for a day or two. What to eat? Here’s a favorite that is ridiculously easy with only three ingredients, but it takes a while.

The ingredients you need are:

1 lb bag of dried pinto beans

1 lb diced ham

Salt pork, get the block, not the sliced. The sliced will work but is more trouble to remove. Use a ham hock if you can’t find salt pork.

That’s it. If you’re feeding more than four of five people, double the beans and ham but you won’t need additional salt pork.

The preparation looks something like this:


Wash the beans.

Boil the beans.

Lower the heat and add the salt pork.

Cook a long time, 5 or 6 hours on low heat.

Throw out the salt pork before you eat it. Add the ham and cook it long enough to get hot.


Empty the beans into large pot. Add water that covers the beans, plus and inch or two. Stick your hand in there and stir the beans around, they need to be rinsed and cleaned. You’ll see why during the first wash. Do this a few times until the water is basically clear. Pull out any deformed or cracked beans. You don’t need to pull them out, but you want your beans to look pretty.


The next step being repeated probably isn’t necessary. You can just boil them once but why tempt fate. Keep reading for the why.

Add another batch of clean water to the now-clean beans, covering them plus a bit. Put on the stove on high heat and cook until the water boils. Remove the pan, dump the water. Add new fresh water. Boil the water. Dump the water. Add more water. Boil again.

Grandma said that doing the repeated boil in fresh, cold water reduced the number of farts you’d get from the beans. It’s likely an old wives tale, but why risk it? No idea if it works because you’re going to get some degree of next-day gas. It’s beans after all.

When you’ve boiled them a few times, or if you choose to just do it once, bring the water to a boil then reduce the heat to low. Add the Salt Pork (or ham hock) to the beans and water mixture. Cover and let simmer for hours. Stir occasionally. Add more water if needed, the beans should always be covered with an extra inch or two of water.


After 3 or 4 hours, taste the beans. They should have a salty flavor and be soft in texture. If they’re still a little firm, cook them longer, but if you cook them too long they’ll turn to mush. Remember to stir. If you need to get the beans softer a little more quickly, turn the heat up a bit, but be sure there’s always enough water to cover the mixture. At low heat, cooking can take 6 or 7 hours but it can be ready sooner based on your schedule. The last time we made it, we started cooking at 11:00am and ate at 5:30pm.

30 minutes before you’re ready to eat, remove and discard the salt pork. Add the ham. It doesn’t need to cook, but it will need to be heated.


If you’re so inclined, serve with cornbread or crusty French bread. The leftovers can be refrigerated and re-heated for up to a week.

About author
Adam Ewing has worked as an Engineer for aerospace and steel manufacturers as well as a Consultant for an R&D tax credit firm. He currently works as an Implementation Consultant for a financial software company. Adam has a B.S. and an M.B.A. from the University of Alabama. His interests include traveling, cars, cooking, and triathlons. You can also find Adam on LinkedIn.


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