Last week, I visited one of my favorite stores, the Buford farmers market in Doraville, Georgia. The Buford market is a food lover’s paradise, the mecca of food, the holy grail of food, where you will find olive oil from Spain, kimchi dumplings, baltika beer from St. Petersburg, chocolates from Moscow, dragon fruit and fresh chestnuts. Plus a huge selection of Asian food, Mexican and Korean pastries and an unbelievable selection of fresh seafood. I think it speaks for the ethnic diverse customer base if you see fish heads for sale displayed on ice. In other words: if they don’t have it, you don’t need it. Once you are there, I recommend a plan of attack; otherwise, you will be in for a long day. I found October beans, sometimes called cranberry beans, to cook a nice bean soup with smoked ham hocks, sounded perfect for this time of the year.
During my research I discovered that, at one time, most people of the southern Appalachians grew at least one variety of October beans. The traditional Appalachian way of cooking the beans is with smoked ham hocks, low and slow, until they are tender and creamy; accompanied by a corn muffin. My recipe for the jalapeño corn muffin would be a perfect fit.
The color of the beans is stunning, however, after cooking they lose the vibrant color – what a shame, however the creaminess of the beans make up for it.
I cook my ham hocks separate, they can be very fatty. Once cooked, I chill the stock and skim the fat of
the stock, which reduces the amount of calories; but still adds the awesome smoked ham hock flavor without sacrificing the wholesome natural goodness of the beans.