Daddy would always threaten me with, “If you and your mama don’t stop shopping, we’re gonna be living on beans and rice.” With beans like these, full of smoky flavor from the ham hocks, I might not mind so much. Add a little side of Corn Pudding and you’ve got a proper, quick meal. This may seem like a lot of beans when you start cooking, but don’t worry: They cook down by half.
1 pound dried pinto beans (or another dried bean of your choice, such as navy or Great Northern, or lima beans)
1 large onion, chopped
3 good-size smoked ham hocks (or 8 ounces ham steak, diced)
1 teaspoon liquid smoke flavoring (optional)
Salt and black pepper
1. Sort through the beans for any of the dirt or rocks that sometimes find their way into a bag of beans. Rinse the beans, put them in a large bowl, and cover with a couple inches of cold water. Soak the beans overnight.
2. Drain the beans and put them in your slow cooker. Add 5 cups water, the onion, ham hocks, and liquid smoke (if using). Cook on medium for 3 hours (or on low for 6 hours, or high for 1½ hours).
3. Season with salt and pepper. Turn down to low and cook until the beans are tender and the meat falls off the bone, up to 30 minutes more. Check the level of water every 30 minutes during this time. If the beans start to get a little dry, add hot water, 1 cup at a time.
4. Discard the bones and serve the beans with the pieces of ham hock.

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