The first time that I tasted cider beans was at the local gas station. Here, in the mountains, folks gather at the local gas station to visit, have a meal, and catch up on the local news. Far from serving "fast food," these little places present "home cookin" and it's delicious. This good ol' mountain recipe is very satisfying paired with cornbread or muffins.
3 cups dried pinto beans
3 cups fresh apple cider
8 ounces salt pork, thinly sliced
2 small yellow onions
6 tablespoons sorghum molasses
1 tablespoon dry mustard
2 teaspoons salt
1. Pick over the beans and discard any stones and wrinkled beans. Rinse well and place in a large bowl. Add cold water to cover by 3 inches, cover, and let soak for 12 hours.
2. Drain the beans and transfer them to a heavy saucepan. Add the cider and bring the beans slowly to a boil over medium heat. Boil gently, uncovered, for about 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and drain the beans, reserving the cooking liquid.
3. Preheat the oven to 300°F.
4. Layer half of the salt pork slices on the bottom of a 2-quart ceramic bean pot or other deep baking dish. Spoon the beans into the bean pot, and then bury the onions in the beans.
5. In a small saucepan, combine the sorghum molasses, dry mustard, and salt and place over medium heat to dissolve the mustard and salt. Pour the hot mixture evenly over the beans, and top with the remaining salt pork slices. Pour in the reserved cooking liquid and add hot water as needed to cover the beans. Cover the bean pot.
6. Bake for 4 hours, and then uncover the pot and add more water if the beans seem too dry. Re-cover and continue to bake for 1 to 2 hours, until the beans are tender. Serve hot directly from the pot.
Reprinted with permission from Cider Beans, Wild Greens, and Dandelion Jelly: Recipes from Southern Appalachia by Joan E. Aller (Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC, 2010). Copyright © 2010 by Joan E. Aller. Food photographs copyright © 2010 by Ben Fink.
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