Growing up, I was fortunate to have a father who not only loved to cook, but was amazing at it. Holidays always revolved around food, with my dad being center stage.

I remember turkeys, hams, rib roasts, corn soufflé, twice baked potatoes, green bean casseroles, and so many other dishes. Dad really threw himself into holiday cooking, as if he were trying to make the finest meal you’ve ever eaten.

Now, while I remember elegant and extravagant delights during the holidays, one of my all-time favorite dishes Dad made was also one of the simplest he made. The mere thought of this meal brings me comfort.

Who knew you could make such a wonderful meal out of 5 simple ingredients? What is this wonderful concoction you ask?

Drum roll……..


My father used dried northern beans, ham, water, pepper, and bay leaves. Place all ingredients in a crock pot, cover, and cook overnight.

Here’s a man who spent 3 days making Thanksgiving dinner one year with so much food that we had to buy a second full size refrigerator, making one of his most memorable meals out of 5 ingredients.

As an adult I have made this dish several times, and me being me, I have to play with the recipe…  Who’d have guessed? After playing with it a few times, I found that there wasn’t much I could do to improve this recipe. In fact, my version only has 2 additional ingredients, onions and shredded carrots.

So let’s get down to it. This one is for you Dad!

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  1. Line your crock pot with a plastic liner for easy clean up. Place dry northern beans and bay leaves in bottom of pot.
  2. Sweat (a fancy term for lightly cooking veggies) carrot and onion together, add to crock pot.
  3. Sprinkle about a teaspoon or so of pepper over the veggies and beans.
  4. Place ham on top and add water until it’s about ¾ way up the ham.
  5. Cover and cook on low for approximately 10 hours.
  6. When the beans are tender, remove ham and cut it into bite size pieces. ( It should fall apart very easily.)
  7. This allows you to remove any fat you don’t want to eat. Return bits size pieces of ham to crock pot and begin seasoning to taste (see below).
Recipe Notes


  • The size of the ham will be determined by the size of your crock pot. I have a 6 quart pot and use approximately 4 pounds of ham.
  • Be sure to pick through the beans for rocks or other things you really don’t want to eat.
  • Yes, I put bay leaves in EVERYTHING!
  • Carrots are available already shredded in your local produce section.
  • A note on using salt: Hams can be salty by nature, so I hesitate to add any additional salt until I’m close to serving.
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Pretty simple stuff eh? Give it a try and you’ll end up asking “How did so much flavor come from such simple ingredients?”

Thanks for the recipe and memories Dad. I miss you.

And, as always, make the recipe… then make it your own!