Just a bowl of butter beans

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Call them limas or butter beans, most folks hate them as much as they dislike brussels sprouts, spinach or other maligned super food. Subjected to badly prepared, overcooked, undercooked, unseasoned fare and made to eat it because it is good for you. No wonder children vehemently protest with tightly sealed lips and crossed arms. “I’m not eating that!” Those early experiences make us leery of revisiting offending food, but sometimes trying it again brings newly enlightened enjoyment, a surprised revelation.  For the rest of us, with the tiniest bit of southern in our roots, we can’t help but hanker for a good ole bowl of butter beans, in fact there are songs about them.

Maybe, for those haters, it is time to give them another try.

Thick and creamy, cooked just long enough, but not too long that the beans are reduced to mush, abundant tender smokey ham chunks and a side of cornbread and a good beer. Honey, this is comfort food at it’s best. As a kid, we’d know that after the ham came the beans, that was my heritage.  I have prepared limas a number of ways; cajun with spicy sausage, latin seasonings and peppers, or like tonight just simply.  I used both large and small beans with a little fresh thyme, bay leaves and a beer broth that offers a little surprise brightness. Truly, that easy.

Ham and Butter Beans (Limas) with Beer Broth

Let’s side trip a minute on the nutritional wonders of this bean lest you are not convinced based on just mouthwatering goodness. Low in fat, high in protein and dietary fiber, cholesterol-free. rich in  several types of phytochemicals such as Lignans, flavonoids, and phytosterols which may play a role in preventing osteoporosis, heart disease, and certain cancers. White beans have more iron than black beans. Dry beans are cheap and provide a good source of protein compared to animal proteins. Add a left over ham bone to boost flavor and you’ve got a tasty wonder food. USDA recommends including 3 cups of cooked dry beans in the diet weekly to meet the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Whew.

Why not play some music and put on a pot o’ beans?


Butter Beans – Thelma Boltin and Tom Walton
Recorded: May 24, 1985 (Florida Folklife Program)
Florida Memory Project, Florida Department of State

If you like more of a old school country vibe, try this Lil Jimmy Dickens rendition.

Something a little more lively?  How about Man Man – Ballad of Butter Beans?

Ready to give them a try? Click Read More for this Recipe or check out my Recipe page for other bean delights – California Girl Blackeyed Peas, Curried Chickpeas and Cauliflower, or Jerk Inspired Black Beans and Rice to name a few.

Ham and LIma Beans in Beer Broth
Lima Beans also known as Butter Beans
Serves 8
Prep Time 1 hr
Cook Time 3 ½ – 4 hours

Olive Oil
1 16 oz pkg dry Large Lima Beans
1 16 oz pkg dry small Lima Beans
½ large yellow onion, diced (about 1 ½-2 Cups)
1 carrot, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
2 cups low salt chicken stock
5 sprigs fresh thyme leaves
3 bay leaves
7 cups water
1 12 oz bottle beer (I used Beck’s German Beer)
1 ham bone with some meat on (left over from holiday spiral ham)
Additional ham meat to suit
1 teaspoon Salt (adjust to taste)
½ teaspoon Black Pepper (adjust to taste)

Rinse and pick through beans to remove any badly form beans or stones.
Soak beans for 1 hour in 3” water, they will plump up. Drain before adding to dutch oven or soup pot.
Wash and dice vegetables, chop onion
Wrap fresh twine around thyme leaves to make a bundle.

Heat about a tablespoon of olive oil in 7qt heavy bottom pot with lid (dutch oven or stock pot)
Add onion, celery, carrots and cook to soften, about 8 minutes.
Add 2 cups chicken broth and deglaze bottom of pot.
Add beans and ham bone, stir to combine ingredients.
Add thyme and bay leaves to pot.
Add 7 cups water and bring to a boil. Cover and lower heat to a simmer for 2 hours.
Keep an eye on the beans and stir periodically, check liquid level, should cover beans by at least ½ “.
Remove ham bone, cool and remove remaining meat, cut into chunks, add back into liquids.
Add beer and bring beans up to a gentle boil, lower heat to simmer and cook covered until beans are fork tender (about 30 minutes – 1 hour)
Remove thyme sprig bundle and bay leaves, turn off heat and serve.

USDA Nutritional Value of Dry Beans
Lima Beans – Wikipedia
Recipes for Health: Lima Beans, New York Times

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2 Responses to Just a bowl of butter beans

  1. Bentobird says:

    Woh, a really FUN post! Simple Americana yumminess and great music to boot…visiting here is always a sweet lift, no matter how weird or hectic the day. (Trying to move across the country is both, my dear!)

  2. Robin says:

    So glad this gave you a little lift today Jenn! Hang in there with the move preparations, it will be worth it when you land in the Golden State 😉

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