We grow our own butter beans and eat them cooked from dried, as well as fresh. This recipe accommodates either. It's a simple, old-fashioned southern side dish that tastes just like, or even better than, the butter beans that our grandmothers used to make. These soft, plump, buttery beans are seasoned with good old country ham and sweet Vidalia onions and are just simply down-home delicious!
*Note: May substitute homemade ham broth for water (all or part) and bouillon; adjust salt accordingly. May also substitute fresh beans for dried, omitting the soaking and adjusting weight and liquid amount for fresh beans. Fresh will require only half the cooking time.
The night before cooking, rinse dry beans well, removing any stones or questionable beans.
Pour beans into large bowl; fill bowl, almost to rim, with cold water; let sit on counter overnight. (Beans will swell to triple their dry size.)
The next day, begin the following steps at least 2 1/2 to 3 hours before serving. Gather and prep all ingredients.
Drain beans, rinse well and set aside.
Add olive oil or bacon grease to a soup pot or large dutch oven over medium-high heat.
Add country ham, onions and pepper.
Sauté over medium/medium-high heat until onions are translucent and ham begins to brown slightly; temporarily remove from heat.
Add beans and water, bring to boil over high heat (watching carefully to not let the pot boil over,) reduce heat to medium-low; skim foam, if desired (I don't bother because it eventually disappears.)
Cover and cook over medium-low heat (fast simmer) for 45 minutes.
Uncover, add salt and ham bouillon base, replace cover; simmer for additional 45 minutes to 1 hour and 15 minutes or until beans are tender.
Taste test for seasoning; add salt and/or pepper as desired. Leave covered, on low heat, until ready to serve.
Garnish with chives or green tomato relish, if desired.
Refrigerate or freeze leftovers in airtight container.