My maternal grandfather, Papa Jake (a.k.a., Hank), channeled John Wayne, Chuck Connors, Hank Williams & your run-of-the-mill, old-fashioned Oklahoma redneck. He always wore black cowboy boots, spoke with a swagger, drove a white Monte Carlo and could hit a turtle poking his head out of the pond at 500-paces from the back door of his trailer. He could also scare up a mean pot of ham & beans. For years, I’ve attempted to imitate the distinct garlicky, salty, smoky flavor he produced without fail.
And finally, the other night, I went to heaven. I went to heaven and told god if he hasn’t made arrangements to serve these beans in his celestial city, I’m not interested in whatever real estate he has to offer. I’m not joking. They were ‘lick the slow-cooker clean’ good and even my husband, who is NOT a bean fan, devoured two large bowls. My sons enjoyed them. My mother sang their praises. And I sat there, spoon in hand, fully engrossed in nostalgia. Salty & garlicky with big chunks of smoky meat. My papa would be proud of my beans.
Now, I named these ham hocks n beans because that’s what we’ve always called them. BUT, I actually used a freshly smoked ham shank from a local meat store. The shank is larger than the hock with quite a bit more meat and brought so much more flavor to this dish than pre-packaged ham hocks from the grocery store.
Serve with your favorite cornbread or Sweet Green Chile Cornbread (click for recipe).
Hank’s Heavenly Ham Hocks N Beans (Shanks)
1 lb. pinto or brown beans
3.5 lbs. of smoked ham shank(s), the butcher cut the shank in half for easier cooking
2/3 c. onion, finely chopped
4 lg. garlic cloves, pressed
1/2 – 1 tsp. kosher salt, note: I started with 1/2 tsp. and then added more later
2 T. butter
First of all, sort and rinse beans. Place in large pot, cover with water & soak overnight. Before cooking, pour off soaking water and rinse beans again. Set aside.
Finely chop onion and press garlic. If you do not own a garlic press (makes the garlic flavor so much stronger because the juices are pressed into your dish), finely mince garlic and gently press with a knife.
Add butter to a large skillet and saute’ onion, garlic and ham shank together until the onions are tender. This smells really nice!
Place beans in a slow-cooker then put in the shank pieces. The shank pieces should be surrounded by the beans, but not completely covered. Pour garlic and onion mixture over the beans (including juices).
Add 4 or 5 good shakes of Worcestershire Sauce. Pour in 6-cups of water (or covering ingredients) Add salt. Cover & cook, stirring occasionally.
Cook 6-8 hrs. on low (the longer, the better).