Once again, Appalachia is ahead of the curve.
Last week, when people began taking this whole coronavirus business more seriously (aka panicking a wee bit), the grocery stores were hit hard. There were the usual suspects–milk and bread–but folks also started buying staples like they were planning to set up a basement shelter to wait out the apocalypse.
As I did my own shopping I noted a dearth of canned goods–especially tomatoes for some reason. And the dried bean section, typically overlooked and under-utilized, was down to a few bags of limas and some lentils.
Which inspired a friend of mine to predict that in six months or so the food pantries are going to be overwhelmed with dried bean donations. Unless you live in West Virginia where the state dish is beans and cornbread (or should be!).
My parents, my grandparents, and many folks still living in WV today wouldn’t need to run to the store to stock up in an emergency. When I was a kid, our cellar was full of canned fruit and vegetables (green beans, tomatoes, peaches, pears, and oh the jellies!). There was also a bin of potatoes. A chest freezer was full of venison and pork. We had chickens for eggs and the occasional Sunday fryer. Daisy gave us milk, cream, and butter.
Don’t get me wrong. We certainly shopped at Krogers. It’s not like we were grinding our own flour or raising sugar cane. But we certainly wouldn’t have gone hungry for a long time!
Which brings me back to all those beans and what you should do with them. Mom would have soaked them overnight and cooked them low and slow on the back burner of the stove all day. But I have a trick for PERFECT beans every time.
Dump your one pound bag of dried beans in a slow cooker and add 4-5 cups of water. Throw in a ham hock or a few strips of bacon and I like to add a couple of bay leaves. Turn the cooker on low and after about six hours make sure the water is still covering the beans. If it’s getting low, add enough to cover. You can give it a stir if you like. After eight hours the beans should be perfectly soft and creamy. Add salt and LOTS of pepper. Serve alongside (or over!) some hot, buttered cornbread.
There now. That’ll hold you a long time!