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Sarah Thomas' Recipe for Crock Pot Beans and Cast Iron Cornbread

Sarah Loudin Thomas grew up on a 100-acre farm in French Creek, WV, the seventh generation to live there. Her Christian fiction is set in West Virginia and celebrates the people, the land, and the heritage of Appalachia. Her first novel, Miracle in a Dry Season, releases August 2014 through Bethany House. Sarah is represented by Wendy Lawton of Books & Such Literary Agency.

A graduate of Coastal Carolina University in Conway, SC, Sarah once dreamed of being a marine scientist. But her love for words won out and she has spent much of her career in public relations and marketing. She currently oversees fundraising and communications for a Christian children’s home in Black Mountain, NC.

Sarah and her husband Jim live in the mountains of Western North Carolina with Thistle–the canine equivalent to a personal trainer pushing them to hike, run, and throw sticks. Sarah is active in her local church and enjoys cooking and–you guessed it–reading. Learn more about Sarah and her writing HERE. 

Sarah's Latest Book Release: MIRACLE IN A DRY SEASON

It’s 1954 and Perla Long’s arrival in the sleepy town of Wise, West Virginia, was supposed to go unnoticed. She just wants a quiet, safe place for her and her daughter, Sadie, where the mistakes of her past can stay hidden. But then drought comes to Wise, and Perla is pulled into the turmoil of a town desperately in need of a miracle.

Casewell Phillips has resigned himself to life as a bachelor…until he meets Perla. She’s everything he’s sought in a woman, but he can’t get past the sense that she’s hiding something. As the drought worsens, Perla’s unique gift divides the town in two, bringing both gratitude and condemnation, and placing the pair in the middle of a storm of anger and forgiveness, fear and faith. Purchase the book HERE. 

Sarah's Recipe for Crock Pot Beans & Cast Iron Cornbread

Beans and cornbread is the first meal Perla makes for the town of Wise, WV, that somehow feeds them all . . . with a little left over. Growing up, beans and cornbread was a standby meal for feeding a family or a crowd, sure to fill us up and leave some for later in the week. 

My mom spent hours soaking and stewing beans with a big ole, meaty ham bone. But somehow mine have never been as good. Until I found a recipe for crockpot beans that I tweaked to suit me. I was highly skeptical about putting dry beans in the crock pot and coming out with a dish that wasn’t underdone or crunchy (the worst!). But I was wrong. These are the BEST beans! And beyond easy. Of course, the meal isn’t complete without a cake of crusty cornbread. No shortcuts here—drag out that cast iron skillet and do it right! Of course, if you’re going to make West Virginia cornbread, you’ll add sugar—something that makes most Southerners cringe!


HAM and BEANS

1 lb package dried northern beans
Ham—could be a meaty bone, hocks, or diced ham, aim for 8-12 ounces of meat
1 or 2 bay leaves
6 cups water
salt & pepper to taste

Rinse the beans and sort through them for any stones or bad beans. Add to crock pot (that’s right—NO SOAKING). If you’re using a ham bone or hocks, add them now along with the bay leaves and water. Put the lid on and cook for 8 hours on low heat. If you’re using diced ham, add it in the last two hours of cooking. After 8 hours, remove any bones, shred the meat, and add salt and pepper to taste. 

CORNBREAD

1 ½ cups yellow, self-rising cornmeal
½ cup self-rising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
¼ cup vegetable oil – divided
2 eggs
1 cup of buttermilk

Add 2 tablespoons of oil to the cast iron skillet and preheat in a 400 degree oven. You want the oil to get HOT, but not smoke. Combine dry ingredients in a mixing bowl and make a well in the center. Whisk together wet ingredients (remaining oil, eggs, and buttermilk) and pour into the well. Mix it up just until everything is combined. Pour batter into hot skillet—it should sizzle and form a crust around the edge almost instantly. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Peek and take it out as soon as it’s golden brown.