West Virginia Beans & Cornbread

West Virginia  Beans & Cornbread

This brown beans and cornbread recipe is a true comfort dish. There isn’t much simpler than a big pot of beans paired with that slightly sweet cornbread on the side. On occasion, I love to whip up this dish and I always think why don’t I make this more often. It is simple, easy to make, hearty and a perfect comfort dish. 

Brown beans were a great staple in our home growing up. In many areas brown beans were a great side dish, but for us they were made to make a whole meal. Paired with some fried cabbage, crusty bread, or cornbread, which is how we love to eat it, and voila! Sometimes I like to dip my cornbread into the bean mixture to soak up the rich and creamy broth and other times I crumble it over the top. It adds the perfect amount of flavor to this hearty and wholesome dish. 

You may also be interested in my recipe for Three bean salad.

I am originally from West Virginia which is considered coal mining country.  When I make a dish like this that I grew up eating, it reminds me of my roots. Brown beans and cornbread have warmed the hearts of many coal miners over the years. A steamy bowl of pinto beans would often await the miners as they arrived home after a long hard day. Out of the oven in a cast iron skillet would be cornbread to pair it with. It was one hearty dish that was very affordable and easy to make.  I always love finding fun facts about history and incorporating it into a teaching for our children. When I made this dish last, I sat down with the kids and kind of incorporated a little bit of history and heritage about coal mining. 

(My family road back home in the holler of West Virginia)

Facts on Coal Mining 

  • Coal was first discovered in 1742  along what he called The Coal River, which is now known as West Virginia by John Peter Salley. 
  • You can find 117 coal seams in West Virginia. 
  • Statistics show that in 2016, WV produced 11% of US coal production!
  • In 2016, WV was known as the largest coal producer east of the Mississippi. It even outranked Wyoming!
  • 94% of WV’s net electricity came from coal-fired electric power plants.
  • Pittsburgh Coal seam had over 31 million tons of coal produced in 2009. 
  • Payroll for the coal industry is around $2 billion dollars a year. 

Coal mining is a dangerous job. It isn’t easy-going down in those mines and breathing in that coal dust. Many coal miners pass away younger than others in their age group from black lung.

There have been numerous coal mine fatalities over the years. The Big Branch mine is one in recent years that rocked the whole state. 29 miners lost their life that day and they are still missed throughout the state.

Coal mining isn’t easy. In WV there are still coal towns where everyday wives send their husbands and sons off to danger for very little pay. History has shown that coal miners aren’t rich, in fact many of them can barely make ends meet, but yet they go anyway. Why do they keep going? You see in WV it is a way of life. Unfortunately, not many decent jobs exist in WV. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t at least KNOW someone who works in the mines. It is a selfless sacrifice to work in such condition to keep the lights on for all of us.  WV is always proud of our Coal Miners.

West Virginia Hometown Cookbook (State Hometown Cookbook)West Virginia Hometown Cookbook (State Hometown Cookbook)The Working Class Foodies Cookbook: 100 Delicious Seasonal and Organic Recipes for Under $8 per PersonThe Working Class Foodies Cookbook: 100 Delicious Seasonal and Organic Recipes for Under $8 per PersonWest Virginia: A HistoryWest Virginia: A HistoryOctober Sky (The Coalwood Series #1)October Sky (The Coalwood Series #1)

So the wives of coal miners learned to be frugal and to make their dollars stretch to keep bellies fed. One traditional WV dish is Brown Beans and Cornbread. It had protein but wasn’t as expensive as meat. It would fill up bellies and the cornbread added another tantalizing taste. I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as my family has. And when you’re eating it, you can think about how those lights are kept on and how much coal miners have sacrificed. It makes a good conversation even when you live in other areas as it keeps our heritage and history alive.

 

Ok so what do you need to make West Virginia Brown Beans and Cornbread?

 

Ingredients – Brown Beans

 

  • 1 pound bag of dry pinto beans
  • 8 cups water
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 4 slices of applewood smoked bacon
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper

I also used a 6 qt cat iron pot which you can pick up on Amazon. The one below is similar.

Lodge EC6D43 Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven, 6-Quart, Island Spice RedLodge EC6D43 Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven, 6-Quart, Island Spice RedGoya Pinto Beans 16 oz per pack 2 Pack (Total of 32 oz/2 lbs) - Frijoles PintosGoya Pinto Beans 16 oz per pack 2 Pack (Total of 32 oz/2 lbs) – Frijoles Pintos

Ingredients – Corn Bread

  • 1 stick of butter (plus another ½ stick)
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup of honey
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • ½ tsp. Salt
  • ½ tsp. Baking soda

Directions-Brown Beans

 

  1. Rinse beans under warm, running water. Soak over night. Dump water after soaking
  2. If you can’t soak them you can also Add beans and water to your pot, enough to cover two inches over top of the beans, and boil for ten minutes. Drain. Then proceed to the rest of step 3.
  3. If you have soaked them add beans, water, chicken stockI make my own in the instant pot, bacon, and seasonings. Bring to boil, cover and turn down to low. Cook for 3 hours, stirring occasionally.                                                                                 
  4. Serve with cornbread. You can also garnish with relish and onions if you wish.

 

Directions-Cornbread

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Add all ingredients together, mix until well combined.                                                       
  3. In a cast iron skillet, set your heat to medium. Once your pan is hot, add half stick of butter. Cover the bottom and the sides of the pan. Once the butter is melted and begins to sizzle, remove from heat.                                                              Add cornbread mixture. Put immediately in preheated oven and bake for 20 mins or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.                               

Enjoy!!!!

Don’t Forget To Print Out Your Recipe For Later! 

West Virginia Brown Beans & Cornbread

Ingredients

Brown Beans

  • 1 pound bag of dry pint beans
  • 8 cups water
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 4 Slices of applewood smoked bacon
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder or fresh onions
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper

Corn Bread

  • 1 stick of butter (plus another ½ stick)
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup of honey
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • ½ tsp. Salt
  • ½ tsp. Baking soda

Instructions

Brown Beans

  1. Rinse beans under warm, running water. Soak over night. Dump water after soaking

  2. If you can't soak them you can also Add beans and water to your pot, enough to cover two inches over top of the beans, and boil for ten minutes. Drain. Then proceed to the rest of step 3.

  3. If you have soaked them add beans, water, chicken stock, bacon, and seasonings. Bring to boil, cover and turn down to low. Cook for 3 hours, stirring occasionally. 

  4. Serve with cornbread. You can also garnish with relish and onions if you wish. 

Cornbread

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

  2. Add all ingredients together, mix until well combined.

  3. In a cast iron skillet, set your heat to medium. Once your pan is hot, add half stick of butter . Spread in all around the bottom and sides.

  4. Once it's melted and the butter is sizzling, remove from heat. Add cornbread mixture

  5. Put immediately in preheated oven and bake for 20 mins, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

  6. Serve with brown beans, chili or just by itself and enjoy! 

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