Gut Rumbles

November 27, 2003

pinto beans and cornbread

I grew up eating pinto beans and cornbread often for supper. My daddy called pinto beans "miner's strawberries" and my mama still makes some of the best cornbread ever created on the face of this planet. I never lost my taste for crumbling the cornbread up in a bowl of pinto beans with plenty of pot likker juice and a serving of home-fried potatoes with a slice of raw onion on the side.

Damn! That is good food.

Mama still makes cornbread in a cast-iron skillet, which is the ONLY WAY cornbread should be prepared. (Yeah... it comes out ROUND) She doesn't sugar it or syrup it, either. It's just damn good cornbread, made the way God intended it to be.

I'll confess another deep, dark secret here. I like buttermilk. You know what's REALLY GOOD? Take some leftover cornbread and break it up in a big glass of buttermilk, then eat that concoction with a spoon. Yeah. I still do that sometimes, and I did it A LOT when I was young. Cornbread and buttermilk go well together.

I guess that Thanksgiving made me think about food...



Just talked with my sister--told her Catfish's recipe for chicken, southern style . . .

She told me the real redneck version now uses a microwave oven, and substitutes a can of unopened beer for the popcorn.

Same results, just one less beer in the cooler.


Posted by: jb on November 27, 2003 10:59 AM

Doesn't everyone eat cornbread that way? I mean both ways. Or, only those of us who really know what is good.
Happy Thanksgiving, A-man!

Posted by: Jaydee on November 27, 2003 11:18 AM

Are you sure we aren't related? And yes, cornbread should only be made in a cast iron skillet. Although today I am making some muffins to go with the turkey which is being stuffed with cornbread sausage stuffing. I could like the pan drippings if I weren't afraid of being caught. mmmmm.....

ps. my daddy taught me about cornbread in milk (regular milk) and to this day I get funny looks from my California bred family when I imbibe on this Appalachian delicacy.

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Posted by: Dawn on November 27, 2003 11:31 AM

Put some jalapenos, and some chunks of cheddar cheese in that cornbread next time.

Posted by: LoneStar on November 27, 2003 11:49 AM

My Mom, WV. born and raised used to put cornbread in Buttermilk, and she would make it sound soooo good. Well, being a curious child I tried it.


Guess, I thought it would taste like a milkshake or icecream.

My Old Italian Grammy did the same yummy looking scenario, with Red Port Wine.

Double Yuk!

I do enjoy your musings though!!

Posted by: Art on November 27, 2003 12:00 PM

Beans and cornbread was a big part of my diet as a kid too. The beans were simmered with a hamhock in them.

Posted by: Robin Roberts on November 27, 2003 12:15 PM


Ah was born somewhat sawth of Jawjah, and raised on a diet that included cornbread, catfish, pinto beans and okra (fried of course).

When my mama, of the Fulton County Mama's, broke up perfectly good cornbread and put it into that stuff it fair broke mah heart.

Buttermilk is nasty. It smells like it's spoiled and never fails to bring up mah dinner if I have to get too close to it.


Southern by Birth, Breeding, and Choice
Confirmed Buttermilk Hater for 40 Years

Posted by: LamontCranston on November 27, 2003 12:24 PM

Some things can't be "gotten over," they have to be lived with.

Have a little empathy, will ya.

Give buttermilk a chance !

Posted by: siso on November 27, 2003 02:04 PM

Oh yes, Buttermilk. I love it and I was the only one in my X family that would drink it but I love my cornbread crumbled up in a nice glass of cold milk.Today I didn't have the traditional feast. I made a pot of chili that my brother and I called Mrs. Peter's Soup. When we were small we lived in the house where the telephone answering co was and on my Mom's day off from answering the phone Mrs. Peters came in to relieve her. Mom would work her shift and Mrs. Peter's would always fix a big pot of chili and do some cleaning. Thanksgiving was my brother and I's holiday. Sometimes he'd fix my car or whatever needed fixing and then I'd take him out for a feast.I didn't want to have leftovers around.I have a picture of him doing that over my computer. He's gone now but he will always be with me on Thanksgiving. I'm thankful that he was the best brother in the whole world and I love him with all my heart,soul, and mind.I miss my brother and that's why I wanted to be alone on Thanksgiving. He would walk around my home and say how comfortable he felt here.I'm thankful for my home and the firewood stacked on my front porch.

Posted by: Lexia on November 27, 2003 02:15 PM

On the weedends when I'd come home for a visit from FSU, my mother would always ask me earlier in the week to tell her what I wanted her to fix to eat. The answer was always beans and cornbread. Sometimes she'd fix pinto beans, sometimes she'd fix what I grew up calling white navy beans. But the cornbread was always baked in a cast-iron skillet, no sugar added. A fresh onion would be on a saucer on the table with a sharp knife to cut what we wanted. Sometimes there would be bunch onions from her early spring garden.

I really preferred a large bowl, but I would crumble up the cornbread all over my plate, layer the beans and juice on, then cut and spread onion rings over the top. Mmm, food of my dreams.

Acidman, are you talking about fried potatoes like my mother made them? Pealed, then sliced a little thicker than 1/8" across the width of the potatoe. Fried in bacon drippings in a cast-iron skillet until cooked through. There'd be some crisp-edged potatoes, but mostly just softened slices? Sometimes mom would add slices of onion to the pan to sautee with the potatoes. That's fried potatoes to me.

I never had what I know would be a pleasure of cornbread in buttermilk. But I know I'd like it, because I like buttermilk, too.

When we were little in Kansas City, MO, a treat I fought over with my sister was who would get the last of the green bean juice to soak a slice of bread in. Those green beans were home grown and canned, too. Heated with a slice of bacon.

And our favorite treat before bedtime was either soda crackers or white bread in a glass of milk.

Thanks for the memories, Acidman.

Posted by: Ms Anna on November 27, 2003 03:53 PM

We had that exact meal Monday night at mom's.....

Beans ~ cornbread the way only a sothern woman can make it ~ sliced onion and tomatoes.......


Posted by: Symph on November 27, 2003 05:15 PM

Dang, and I thought I was the only pinto bean lover! I purely LOVE a "sandwich" made with cornbread (yep, cast iron skillet) with butter melted on it, and then spread with a thick layer of left-over pinto beans with the hambone flavor permeating through the whole thing. Course, taters fried in bacon grease with lots of onions, bell peppers, and banana peppers are right tasty, too.

My husband doesn't care for that food at all, but his family was wealthier than mine when I was a kid. (Breakfast cereal before school? Uh uh. Not at my house. Couldn't afford it. Rewarmed beans, or maybe eggs and/or fish if the hens were layin' and the fish were bitin'.) If it weren't for (wild) greens, squirrels, fish, rabbits, and (illegal) deermeat. we'd have been in a real mess. (A garden would've been nice, but the damn deer and rabbits kept eatin' it. So, we thought it only fitting that we eat them.)

Our cousins felt so sorry for us because we didn't have nice sugar-encrusted breakfast cereal. And my uncle would donate whatever varmints he shot to us po' relations. Wish he would've used a .22 instead of a shotgun, though. You ever tried to eat a squirrel what's been shot with a shotgun? Pellets in every bite!

We were always too proud to eat possum, though.

If my husband has to be out of town for any reason, I cook up a pot of comfort from childhood. At least he likes the cornbread!

Posted by: SwampWoman on November 27, 2003 07:08 PM

You sound like my mother.

Soup beans cause extreme farts and onions put the sulfur in them.

When my mother used to make us soup beans and cornbread, I put mustard next to the beans for dipping. Kind of a Sling Blade deal, I guess.

On the whole, I'm more partial to navy beans, cooked with a country ham hock.

Posted by: Steve H. on November 27, 2003 09:04 PM

Okay, A-man, for those of who were raised by a Yankee Mom who hated to cook-----------------how about sharing the recipe for that cornbread? And if you have one for good sweet potato pie, you would make me very happy!

Posted by: Robin on November 27, 2003 10:03 PM

I grew up on pinto beans and cornbread - yep, made in the skillet.
Mamma made the best pinto beans in this old pot she'd gotten in Mexico.
We were pretty poor, so almost every night she'd be soaking beans to cook the next day.
Brings back a lot of memories.... :)

Posted by: pam on November 28, 2003 06:20 AM

One of my prized possessions is Grandma's 10" square cast iron skillet. Probably 60 years of 'seasoning' on it, it's more non-stick than silicone. For your luckier hillbilly mathemeticians "Pi R squared and cornbread are squared, too". I made our cornbread for Thanksgiving in it yesterday, so long as I've got that pan, Grandma's still with us.

When I was a little boy in the Ozarks, cornbread & buttermilk was a frequent afternoon treat. Surprisingly cooling on a hot summer's day. I've quit trying to convert those who didn't grow up eating this, it seems to be a taste that can't be acquired. An ancient Chinese saying has it that 'Patriotism is nothing more than loving the food of your youth'. There may be something to that notion.

Bean cookery. I loves me some beans & rice/cornbread, so I cook something like this every other week or so. Yankee baked beans w/yelloweye beans, Country style navy or pintos, Cuban style black beans, Tex-Mex/NuMex style pintos or small red beans, New Orleans Red Beans and Rice, black eyed peas/.hopping john, split peas (green and yellow), plus your various sorts of chickpeas, lentils and assorted dal from India and points east. Since I do this so often, here are a few tricks. Learn to use a pressure cooker AND/OR soak most types of beans overnight, change the soaking water 2 or 3 times (this reduces some of the methane) and crockpot 'em all day. Some people add bicarb. of soda to their beans, for the same reason. I find that changing the water often works well enough for me.
Do not add salt/bullion cubes to beans until they're done, taste and salt them just before serving. Salt will toughen the skins on the beans if you cook them a long time. If you have to add any water to your beans as they're cooking, add boiling water, cold water added to cooking beans will toughen 'em up. When they're tender & done thru, remove 1 cup of beans w/some broth and mash them with a fork/potato masher and add this 'mash' back into the pot. This really thickens the 'pot likker'. Don't heat the beans over anything but low heat from now on, this now-thick bean broth will burn easily. And with that in mind...if you burn your beans (it happens) just remove from heat as soon as you realize they're burning, pour them WITHOUT STIRRING THEM into another pot asap and continue cooking as necessary. The burnt beans will remain on the bottom of the original pot. Get busy cleaning that mess while the rest of the beans cook. Pay more attention.

Seasonings vary from recipe to recipe, but for the record, most of mine include garlic, oregano, cumin seed and chili. I buy cumin seed & crushed chile dirt cheap at the nearest grocery store that caters to folks from India. While you're in there looking for spices, try some of the various beans/lentils they offer. Pink lentils, Chana Dal, Basmatti rice, etc....when people pretty much live on beans & rice, they tend to get pretty good at it, pretty quick. Think of 'em as Himalayan Hillbillies, you'll get along fine.

One more topping I didn't see, maybe y'all don't use this. Besides the obvious fresh raw sweet onion, Grandma and Grandpa and Mom always topped their pinto beans with home-made pickled banana peppers or garlicky green tomato picallilli. There was also a bottle full of little firey hot chile pepper & cider vinegar on the table to splash on beans, eggs, spinach & greens, etc...Grandma would use the same chiles for quite a while and just keep replenishing the vinegar when it got about half-full. To preserve tradition I keep a little tray on my table with 3 or 4 kinds of hot sauce, 3 kinds of vinegar, plus salt & pepper. Spice is the variety of life.

Posted by: Carl H. on November 28, 2003 10:56 AM

We're the same way except we do it with Butter Beans onion and the sacred cornbread. I hated it as a kid. But now I love it.
I am my dad.

Posted by: DaneBramage on November 28, 2003 12:41 PM

That reminds me of my grandpa. He'd crumble up cornbread, put it in a tall glass, add buttermilk, and eat it like a milkshake. I tried it once and it was disgusting! I love cornbread, but buttermilk is gross. My mom used to make pinto beans with hamhocks and cornbread, now that was good!

I'm 1/4 mexican, and my dad LOVES menudo. That's the lining of a cow's stomach if I'm not mistaking. My grandma taught my mom how to make menudo soup, and that is another thing that is gross. Any of you folks like it, or is it just a mexican thing?

Posted by: Alaska Kim on November 28, 2003 03:49 PM

I have a large coffee tin full of dried beans, all different varieties. When it gets low, I pick up a bag of beans at the store and mix them in. Pintos, kidneys, navy, lima, and so on. I haven't mastered cornbread yet. Mine is okay but not great. But my beans kick serious ass. I soak them overnight (never tried changing the water multiple times--will do that next time) and rinse them real good in the morning. That gets the worst of the gas out. Then oregano, chili pepper, cayenne and whatever else feels right. The hamhock gets diamond scored and tossed in. Sautee a little mix of onion, garlic, and celery to add. Slow boil a few hours. Pull out the hamhock, separate skin and bone from the good meat, and toss the good stuff back in. Do the mashed beans thing to thicken it up. Add salt at the end.

Damn good eating.

And you know what chaps my ass? My vegetarian family always requests that I make it without the ham hock. Heathens!

Posted by: shell on November 28, 2003 05:04 PM

An Alabama Milkshake !!!! Good Gawd, I Reckon !!!!!

Posted by: Jim on November 28, 2003 08:55 PM

Got vegans?

Make a pot of beans, and add a LOT of olive oil about half an hour before they're done, instead of hambone/hocks/pigs ears. The beans will soak up the fat from the oil just like they would if it was pigglywiggly, and they don't ask too many questions where it came from. Works pretty well, considering.

Posted by: Carl H. on November 28, 2003 09:45 PM

Yeah, Carl, right on! I usually 'quick-soak' my beans (maybe not the 'acceptable" way, but that is just me), and saute a good batch of the 'trinity' in olive-oil and add to the pot along with what ever seasoning I use. That depends on what kind of beans, and how I want to use them. And I bake my corn bread in a cast iron skillet. Can't eat much better than that.

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Posted by: Copeland Greg on May 19, 2004 05:20 PM

I know one of you Southerners must have a recipe for deermeat sausage. Hubby has meat in freezer and was told deer makes the best sausage and gravy. HELP

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I know one of you Southerners must have a recipe for deermeat sausage. Hubby has meat in freezer and was told deer makes the best sausage and gravy. HELP

Posted by: Barb on May 23, 2004 01:34 PM
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