Whether you go through preparing Southern pinto beans yourself or using canned beans, this is hands down, one of the most satisfying recipes out there. Since it is ham-hock-based, it can be a bit on the salty side if you aren’t careful, but thankfully, you have me here as your guide to ensure it comes out as well as possible.
You can get a lot of utility out of this ham hock and pinto beans recipe, serving it with collard greens, rice, or whatever other side your heart may desire.
How Do Ham Hocks and Ham Shanks Differ?
Both ham hocks and ham shanks come from the pork leg. The difference is the part of the leg they come from. The lower section above the ankle is where a ham hock comes from. A ham shank, on the other hand, is the hog’s upper leg below the knee.
Either cut is going to be on the tough side, but ham hocks, which we’ll be using here a little less so. Additionally, the hock is the cheaper of the two. If you really want to, you can use ham shanks for this recipe, but I would recommend sticking to the hocks.
Canned Beans or Simmered Pinto Beans?
I feel like I always get these kinds of questions with meals that have beans in them that could either be canned or not. Do you cook your dried beans for a while, or do you buy canned beans, and circumvent the process of having to prepare them yourself?
In most cases (this happens to be one of those cases), I think going either way is fine. You just need to remember that the canned beans would form a shorter part of the cooking process since you don’t want to turn them into a crushed bean soup
For this recipe, I’m going to prepare the ham hocks alongside pinto beans that need to be cooked. That means you’ll get to see how the pinto beans should be prepared for the best results. Again, if you want to go the canned route, just put them in a bit later and that should work out fine. If you’re a canned bean fan, check out my canned refried beans recipe!
Soaking Your Pinto Beans
Depending on the person you’ll talk to, you’ll get different opinions where the soaking of the pinto beans is concerned. It turns out I eat beans a lot. I LOVE beans. I LOVE pinto beans. So, listen to me on this one. Soak your beans overnight. I don’t know about being easier to digest that way, but what I do know is that you’ll spend less time cooking them.
Remember that the idea is to be as efficient in the kitchen as possible, so the less time the ham hock and beans take to be done, the better for us.
What’s the Best Way to Cook Your Pinto Beans?
Once your pinto beans are finished soaking, the actual cooking process is very straightforward. All you’re gonna do is throw them in a pot with your minced garlic, onions, chicken stock, and your ham hocks. Of course, I’ll break down the recipe into steps but this is really what it boils down to.
Bear in mind that you can exercise some creative control over the liquid. Some people use chicken broth by itself, some combine it with water, and others may use something else entirely. I like the flavor that chicken stock brings to these kinds of bean recipes, so it will always be my go-to option.
By the time the cooking is done, you find that the onions melt into the smoked ham hocks and pinto beans, which just compliments the flavor that’s already there.
Tips for Preparing Your Beans
When you’re doing your ham hock and pinto beans recipe, remember to go easy on the latter. Even though you aren’t using canned beans (assuming you’re doing it my way), you still do need to be careful with them. Gently let them simmer or they will break down.
You can control the texture by adding somebody to the mix. That way your pinto beans and ham hocks take on a more creamy feel.
Finally, the meat on the ham hock is best separated from its bones. The best way to distribute the flavor is to have the meat directly mixed in with the beans.
Is a Smoked Ham Hock the Only Meat You Can Use for This Recipe?
One of my favorite things about this beans and ham hocks recipe is the modifications that can be made while still preserving the core of the idea. For example, before I spoke about the fact that you can use canned beans or soaked beans with ham hocks. I also told you that you can use ham shanks instead of ham hocks.
What if I told you that there doesn’t even need to be a ham hock present either? Some people aren’t the biggest ham hock fans and if that sounds like you, then perhaps you want to consider smoked turkey wings that slot right into the recipe. You may want to think about my baked beans with ground beef recipe, too!
If you are going to use them though, at least ensure that the ones you’re getting are on the meatier side of the fence.
Combining Seasonings with Your Beans
Which seasonings go best with your ham hock delight? This is an excellent question. For the flavor profile that we are trying to achieve here, my suggestions are as follows:
- Onions – They are very flavorful and make an excellent pairing with pinto beans. There’s a nice and subtle combination of savory and sweet that is excellent for this kind of thing.
- Garlic – I think this goes without saying. Again, there’s a depth of flavor that you get, which is optimal for ham hocks and beans.
- Salt and pepper – Both of these are great at helping you to adjust the taste of the ham hock mixture to your standards. Be careful with the salt though, as ham hocks have a fair amount of natural salt content
Is Sodium a Concern When Preparing Beans with Ham Hocks?
In short, yes. Ham hock sodium content is pretty high by normal standards. To give you an idea of what you’re dealing with, there are 350 milligrams of sodium in a single one-ounce serving of the stuff.
Therefore, if you are someone who needs to keep your intake low, you may either want to steer clear of ham hocks overall, or limit your other sources whenever you’re going to have some.
With that said, a smoked ham hock is one of the best things to add some extra flavor to your beans.
Tips to Bear in Mind for Your Smoked Ham Hocks
Here are a couple of tips to help you ensure that this comes out as well as it possibly can:
- Remember that your beans can have surface dirt, so rinse them well before soaking.
- If you want to use a larger ham hock, you can without affecting the cook time.
- Add your canned beans near the end of the process if you’re using them.
- If you don’t soak your beans, you could be looking at upwards of an hour of extra cook time.
What Can You Serve with Your Beans and Ham Hocks Recipe?
This is a super versatile meal, so you can serve it with just about whatever you like. For example, you could opt for cornbread, fried potatoes, rice, mashed potatoes, greens, or a whole salad.
A Tasty End
While this isn’t something I have often, I find myself looking forward to it when I do for the unique flavor and the fact that it goes well with so many sides. Whatever the side choice is, I know that the central flavor will enhance it.
Just remember to make adjustments to manage the sodium content and also based on how you decide to deal with the bean side of things.
Ham Hock and Beans
You can get a lot of versatility out of this ham hock and pinto beans recipe. Serve it with collard greens, rice, or whatever other side your heart may desire!
- 2 lbs. smoked ham hocks
- 2 L water
- 1 lb. pinto beans
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 qt. chicken broth
- 1 tsp. herbs de Provence
- 2 tbsp. minced garlic
- 1 chopped onion
- 2/3 chopped carrots
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Parsley to garnish
- Put two liters of water in a pot with the herbs de Provence and your ham hocks. Allow it to boil, reduce it to a simmer, and let it cook for about an hour.
- Saute your onions and carrots in a skillet with your olive oil. Do this over medium heat until everything softens.
- Drain your pinto beans and throw them into the ham hock broth along with your chicken broth, cooked onions and carrots. Bring everything to boil and then reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook for about 40 minutes.
- Remove your ham hocks from the pot, cut off the meat, and return it to the pot, discarding the rest.
- Use your salt and pepper to adjust the taste and then you can optionally garnish with your parsley before you serve.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 247Total Fat: 5gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 26mgSodium: 1187mgCarbohydrates: 26gFiber: 6gSugar: 1gProtein: 26g