“ChuckVision” Beans with Ham

It’s always nice to meet someone who can also get excited talking about Rancho Gordo. Not enough of us out there, to be sure, but the word is getting out.

Who – or what? – is a Rancho Gordo? Thanks to Steve Sando, Bean Master and the founder of Rancho Gordo, you have options when it comes to dried beans. Supermarket beans just don’t compare to heirloom beans from Rancho Gordo with exotic names like Good Mother Stallard or wonderfully descriptive names like  Jacob’s Cattle, Yellow Eye or Ojo de Cabra (Goat’s Eye). If you eat beans and have never tried using heirloom beans you owe it to yourself to try it. Plus, by buying Rancho Gordo beans you’re helping to support biodiversity and local family farmers. If that means nothing to you, then buy them just because you can’t believe the difference it’ll make to the flavor of your bean dishes.

I recently met attorney Chuck Numbers and we ended up talking about our love of Rancho Gordo beans (long irrelevant story). A week or so later a package arrived on my doorstep. Beans. Rancho Gordo beans. From Chuck. The note included said he was at a farmer’s market in San Francisco, saw those Rancho Gordo beans and thought of me and decided to send us some of his favorite beans. Wow. How often do you run into someone that thoughtful?

One of the beans included in that package was a pound of Yellow Eyes. It said right on the package, “A ham hock’s best friend”. Yummy. One of my favorite ways to make beans. Here’s how I do it, a very slight adaptation to the Red Beans & Rice recipe in Steve Sando & Vanessa Barrington’s Heirloom Beans: Great Recipes for Dips and Spreads, Soups and Stews, Salads and Salsas, and Much More from Rancho Gordo.

This recipe makes a HUGE batch of beans because you can’t buy half a ham hock. I love smoked pork as much as the next guy, but let’s face it, it’s not health food, even if it’s an organic nitrate-free smoked-in-house ham hock like this one I got at Whole Foods. I know, it’s a little disgusting looking. It’s the lower half of a pig leg, what were you expecting?

To keep the pork content to a minimum I’ve kept the ham the same as the original recipe and doubled everything else. Still plenty pork-y & luscious. Hope you have plenty of storage containers for freezing leftovers, you’ll need them (I like these, they’re glass & the round shape means I can run some warm water across the bottom and pop it out right into my 2-qt sauce pan for reheating).

Ingredients

  • 1 one pound-ish smoked ham shank (aka ham hock, same dif). Available packaged or ask your butcher, they may smoke their own
  • 2 pound yellow eye heirloom Rancho Gordo beans, soaked (or combine two different kinds of heirloom beans like I did – I combined the Yellow Eyes with a pound of Good Mother Stallard’s which didn’t cook at the same time, honestly, but it all worked out in the end)
  • 3-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 2 medium red onions, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 6 stalks celery, chopped (include the leaves, tons of flavor in those babies)
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • salt & pepper to taste

Directions

  • Rinse the beans in plenty of cool water, picking out any rocks (happens) or broken beans. Soak them for 2-6 hours (overnight even) in enough cold water to cover by at least an inch. Seriously, tell me those beans don’t look more interesting than plain old kidney beans.
  • In a large (7 qt+) dutch oven heat EVOO over medium heat until it shimmers. Add onion, bell pepper, celery and garlic and saute 10 minutes or until veggies are soft & fragrant but not browned. If you’re like me and you typically add salt to your veggies as they saute, DON’T! You’ll add the salt later but beans like to cook salt-free for a couple of hours first.
  • Add the beans, their soaking liquid and the ham shank, adding water if necessary to cover the beans by 1 inch. Add spices not including the salt (bay leaves, thyme, oregano and cayenne pepper), bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer.
  • Simmer partially covered, checking occasionally to make sure the beans are staying submerged, adding water as necessary. Watch TV. Play with your kids. Do some Bikram Yoga in honor of Chuck. Whatever. It’s gonna be a while.
  • After 4 hours or so, when the meat starts to fall off those beautiful ham bones, remove the ham shank (and any pieces of meat that fell off as you were pulling it out!).
  • Crank the heat on the beans up to medium-high and cook uncovered while you shred the pork.
  • If you’ll be serving this over brown rice start that rice cooker.
  • Shred the pork, removing any bones, visible fat and other icky bits. 
  • Cook the bean, uncovered, until thick, about 20 minutes. Mash with a wooden spoon, potato masher or immersion blender then return shredded ham to the pot.
  • If you’ll be serving over white rice, now’s the time to start the rice cooker.
  • The original recipe seasons with salt & pepper earlier in the process, but I wait until the end. Seems to me that you can’t tell how much salt that pork is going to bring to the party until it’s done doing its thing. Start slowly. It takes beans a few minutes to soak up the salt so you don’t really know how much you have right away. Don’t forget the pepper.
  • Serve over rice with hot sauce, cilantro & a squeeze of lime.

During our conversation I referred Chuck to this blog and he joked he was going to start his own, ChuckVision.com. Domain not available Chuck, you’d have to talk to the Iowa City Astronomy Club about that.