Beans, beans, the magical fruit. The more you eat, the more you...um, well, you know. In the mountains of the South, soup beans are a very common meal. It is particularly popular in the regions around the Appalachian Mountains (where I live). Now, it's not to be confused with bean soup. It refers to pinto or other brown dried beans cooked with smoked pork as flavoring. Soup beans are usually served with cornbread and are considered a main course but can also serve as a side dish. In rural areas, where food was scarce during the winter, these beans were a staple food. I've modernized this recipe a bit by using a slow cooker and some convenience items. And the nice thing about this recipe is you don't have to go searching for a ham hock or ham shanks (my personal fave) to purchase. Unless, of course, you're like me and have two legs that can be confused with ham hocks. But I digress...Ham hocks and shanks are readily available in many regions in the South but I know in other parts of the U.S., they can be pretty hard to find. So, you get all the wonderful taste but not a lot of prep work.
4 (15oz.) cans pinto beans
1 packet ham concentrate
1 package of cubed ham (or leftover chopped ham)
You can see I pick up cans of pinto beans whenever they are on sale, so I usually end up with all different brands.
Ham concentrate can usually be found in the ethnic aisle of your grocery store. Usually near the Latin foods. Also, you may be able to find a product called Ham Base. It is usually located down the soup aisle, near the chicken and beef broth. You can also use that for ham flavoring (about a teaspoon.)
Take all the ingredients and combine in your slow cooker. Give it all a good stir and cover. Set on low for about 6-8 hours. Everything in here is already precooked. So you're really just giving the flavors a chance to meld and for the beans to take on that yummy ham flavor.
Make some cornbread and serve! It's that easy! A filling and budget-friendly meal.