Hot and hearty simple meals were a staple in country living and extremely satisfying. In challenging economic times, my advice to young women would be to learn how to cook from scratch, learn how to garden, and have your spiritual house in order so that when tough times come, you know how to live by faith. My grandmother survived and thrived in the Great Depression using those simple principles.
A good cook is one who can make rice and beans taste delicious. A good cook can create a lovely meal from basic ingredients from the freezer or pantry. A good cook can whip up fresh bread from simple ingredients like flour, salt, water, yeast, and a little olive oil. A small bag of Great Northern White Beans, frozen left-over ham from Christmas plus seasonings from the pantry result in a pot of Country Ham and Beans that will warm us up all week.
COUNTRY HAM & BEANS
Soak a 1 lb. bag of Great Northern dried beans overnight in cold water in the refrigerator. Drain and rinse. Place soaked beans in a large stock pot and cover two to three times level of beans with fresh water. Add one large chopped onion, 2 large cloves chopped garlic, 2 tsp. ginger, 2 tsp. dry mustard, 1 large bay leaf, 1/2 tsp. black pepper or 6-8 peppercorns, 2 dashes dried thyme, and 1/2 to 1 pound ham or 1 package country style pork ribs, cut into chunks. Add 2 tb. concentrated paste chicken base or to taste. I find an excellent chicken base at GFS or specialty food stores. Check the label to make sure “chicken” is first on the ingredient list rather than salt.
Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer or low boil and cook until beans are tender. For a creamier dish, break up beans. Taste to adjust seasonings. At this stage, I sometimes add more chicken stock or onion/garlic powder to taste.
STOCK UP FOR GOOD EATING
I like to keep jars of good quality beef and chicken stock in my pantry. Even if I am low on fresh meat, these concentrated paste stocks add rich meat flavor to rice, beans, gravy, casseroles, pasta…everything. It is also an economical way to cook as the stocks go a long way and make inexpensive basics taste great. Just add the herbs and spices for your dish of choice. Here are a few seasonings I use for dishes:
Italian: oregano or marjoram, basil, bay, onion and garlic
Mexican: Chilies, cumin, chili powder, onion and garlic, herbs as preferred, cinnamon
Mediterranean: Greek Seasoning [one of my favorites for so many things], oregano, thyme, olive oil/olives, lemon
Indian: Curry Powder–1 tsp. cumin, 1 tsp. coriander, 1 tsp. turmeric, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/4 tsp. clove, 1 tsp. cardamom, 1 tsp. onion pwd., cayenne as preferred
Thai: coconut milk, fish sauce, teriyaki sauce, soy sauce, red curry paste
Japanese: soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, lemon grass, sesame oil
For more cottage basics, visit my Board at Pinterest called “The Frugal Cottage Life.” The recipe for Boule’ is also on this site.