In lieu of ham, flavor these beans with crisp bacon and some rendered fat. This recipe also works very well with black-eyed peas or pinto beans.
- 1 lb. dried white beans such as great northern, navy, or cannellini
- 1 ham hock, split, or about 1⁄2 lb. smoked pork necks, ham bone, or ham
- 1 medium onion, halved
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Place beans in a medium saucepan and cover with 3" cold water. Soak overnight. (Or, as a shortcut, simply cover beans with cold water and cook over high heat just to the boiling point. Remove from heat, cover, and allow to sit for 1 hour.)
Drain beans and return to pan. Cover with 2" cold water. Add ham hock and onion halves and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until beans are very tender. (Some of the beans will fall apart and form a thick sauce.) This will take anywhere from 1 1⁄2-3 hours, depending on the age of the beans. (If desired, remove ham hock from beans. Pull off meat, cut it into bits, and return meat to beans. Discard bone and gristle.)
Taste beans and adjust seasoning with salt and plenty of pepper. This dish is best served hot with Leroy's Spicy Cabbage. The beans will keep—and even improve—for several days in the refrigerator.