Father’s Beans

1 pound pinto beans
1/2 to 1 pound salt pork, to taste

Pick over beans, if desired (to remove any rocks or other debris). Put the beans in a large pan and add water to cover, about 2 inches above the surface of the beans. Soak overnight. Note: You can “quick-soak” the beans by bringing the water in the pan to a boil, then letting the beans sit in the hot water for one hour.

Before cooking, make sure the water just covers the beans. Remove the rind from the pork, then cut the meat into 1/4-inch-thick slices and add to the beans. Simmer over a low flame until done, at least two hours, probably more. Stir occasionally and add water if necessary. Note: You can substitute a ham hock for the salt pork, in which case you will need to add salt (at least a teaspoon, or to taste).

Father’s Marvelous Beans

1 pound pinto beans, cleaned and soaked (water to barely cover after soak)
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/4 pound salt pork, diced
1 link (approximately 1 pound) kielbasa or other Polish-style sausage, cut into 1/2-inch coins
2 to 3 tablespoons picante sauce
2 small cans tomato wedges, or 2 to 3 large tomatoes, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
some celery, ditto (your mother says no)

Place all ingredients in a pressure cooker and cook at 15 pounds pressure for about 1 hour and 5 minutes. Or, simmer over a low flame 2 to 3 hours until done.

Texas Corn Bread

From The Best from Helen Corbitt’s Kitchens edited by Patty Vineyard MacDonald

1 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt

Mix (dry ingredients) thoroughly; then add without mixing:
1 cup buttermilk (half sour cream and milk)
1/2 cup sweet milk
1 egg
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon soda
1/4 cup melted shortening

(Preheat oven to 450 degrees.) Grease muffin pans or corn-stick pans well and heat. Stir up the mixtures thoroughly and pour into hot pans. Bake until done [about 20 minutes]. The bread will be moist and brown on the bottom.

(Baked corn bread freezes well and can be reheated successfully in the microwave. —Editor)

“Texas Corn Bread” is from Patty Vineyard MacDonald, The Best from Helen Corbitt’s Kitchens (Denton: University of North Texas Press, 2000). Copyright 2000 by Patty Vineyard MacDonald. Reprinted by permission.

Just Good Plain Cornbread

From Texas Home Cooking by Cheryl Alters Jamison and Bill Jamison

1 tablespoon oil, preferably corn or canola
1 1/2 cups medium-grind cornmeal, preferably stone-ground
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
3 eggs, lightly beaten
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Grease a 10-inch cast-iron skillet with the oil. Place the empty skillet in a cool oven, and set the oven at 400 degrees. In a medium bowl, stir together the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Pour in the buttermilk and eggs, and gently mix by hand until the mixture is thoroughly blended. Stir in the melted butter. Remove the skillet from the oven, pour the batter into the skillet (the batter will sizzle), and return it to the oven. Bake the bread for 18 to 20 minutes, or until it begins to brown on top and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Serve the cornbread warm. Serves 6 to 8.

Excerpted from Texas Home Cooking by Cheryl Alters Jamison and Bill Jamison, Copyright © 1993, with permission from the Harvard Common Press, Boston, MA