It doesn't get much simpler or Southern than this! The key to GREAT bean soup is three fold.
#1 Beano (let's all be just a little bit honest here), #2 cornbread and #3 really good ham (the beans are just beans).
2 cups chopped ham
1 c light brown sugar
1/2 c sorghum molasses (in Tennessee, get Benton County, in Kentucky get Moonlite - they are the best in each state)
1 c water
1 large Reynolds Baking Bag with tie
1 pkg (large bag) dried northern beans
your largest crock pot
2 boxes of Jiffy Cornbread Mix (or make it from scratch if you prefer)
First things first, rinse those dry beans in your colander and get all the dust off them. Then put them in a very large Tupperware box and cover with cool water to let them soak for at least 8 hours. Pick out any discolored or "bad beans". It takes a full day of soaking to have these ready to cook. I start mine soaking in the morning then put them in the crock pot just before we go to sleep. You'll wake up hungry I guarantee but it'll be oh so worth it when you don't have to cook tomorrow!
Second, take the sliced ham and place it in a baking bag. Add the brown sugar, top with molasses then add water. Make sure the sugar, molasses and water mix and then tie your baking bag closed (poke a few holes in the bag to vent the steam) then bake in a baking dish @ 350* for one hour. Remove ham from oven and open the bag (just cut a slit in the top) to allow ham to steam for 30 minutes in the juices. Remove ham a few slices at a time. Drain juices (those are precious and you'll need them) - chop the ham into very small pieces. Place in a Tupperware bowl and then top with all those fabulous juices. Seal and refrigerate overnight. If you're in a pinch for time, buy the ham already to go - Kentuckiana makes a Brown Sugar Baked Ham. Those are already sliced and super convenient.
Just before bedtime, place the soaked beans in your crock pot, cover with water (plenty of water) and set the heat on low cook. Add salt and pepper to taste. When you wake up (in the night or in the morning) check that water level as it cooks out quickly. In the dawn of daylight (or when you are awake enough to function) add 2 cups of chopped ham and at least /2 cup of the juices from that ham. This is the KEY to making GREAT Ham and Bean Soup. Beans are beans, but great ham makes it famous with your friends and family! You may want more ham it you like it meatier. Add extra juices accordingly.
Let combination simmer all day (or at least 4 hours). I know those beans just cooked all night but it's the addition of the ham, juices and extra soak time that make this so wonderful.
Prepare corn bread as directed....okay that's not exactly true. I always add an extra egg (for luck according to my Mama) and (forgive me...) 2 good big pinches of white sugar. I know that sounds awfully Yankee but Lord Love Me, I do like sweet cornbread. You can make muffins, make it in a baking dish or bake it in an iron skillet - just be sure to spray your cooking outlet with spray before you begin. Let cornberad cool completely or you'll eat it all warm with butter and have none to go with your soup!
Serve soup with Beano (revisit key #1) and warm cornbread. Add a big glass of tea and you are all set for a low calorie high protein delicious dinner (the left overs are fabulous for lunches so this dish goes even farther)!!!
This makes a really pretty delivery meal if you have a friend in need or under the weather. I hope this warms your heart as much as it does mine. Enjoy Ya'll! xxooxx