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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Back to Basics

One of my commenter's asked me about the preparation of refried beans and Chile con Carne and it got me thinking about a basic food item that used to be the cornerstone of every kitchen and on the literal back burner of every stove. That item being a good pot of beans.
That pot of beans transcends into many cultures and many homes, be it Navy, White, Kidney, Black, Lima, Garbanzo, Black Eye Peas, Broad, Lentils, Adzuki, or in my family, Pintos. The legume in all its forms gives rice a run for its money, in feeding hungry mouths worldwide. A pot of beans is home, comfort.
In my family, a process took place, that brings back fond memories for me. This process can and should be applied to your own pot of beans in all their forms.
Most of the beans begin their journey in our homes as a dry bag of beans. No Cans need apply=) In my family the beans were taken out of their bag and emptied on a counter or a table and the sorting begins. Sorting is something that the whole family can do, and an easy way to get the kids involved.
Most beans even in today's markets are not ready for the pot. They are imperfect, broken, bad or shriveled beans in the bag and must be sorted and thrown away. Along with the occasional clod of mud, dirt and even pebbles from the ground they were grown in.
The next step in the process is soaking the beans for at least 12 hours in cold clean water. There are many reasons for this, for example, taking the flatulent aspect we all associate with eating beans out by helping to remove the indigestible complex sugars called oligosaccharides from outside of the beans. But as my wife would say...TMI, science nerd! The two main reasons to soak your beans is to clean them from all pesticide residue and dirt, and to cut cooking time in half. Once the soak is done thoroughly rinse with clean water and place in a pot with clean water.
Bring to a rolling boil for 30 minutes.
Different flavors go with different beans but it is hard to go wrong with an onion that has been peeled and halved. The pintos in our family were also boiled with salt to taste, garlic powder and piece of pork, be it bacon, salt pork or ham hock. You can choose your own flavors be it with herbs or bones, or other meats.

Once this pot has filled your home with the sense of home, there are many things you can do with them. In my family the beans and the boiling broth are added to a bowl with  chopped white onion, green bell pepper, jalapenos, and cilantro for Charro beans. Another option is they are drained and mashed and fried with bacon grease or lard and topped with melting cheese of choice for the best refried beans you ever had.
Save that back burner for a pot of beans, and you will open up your home to memories and good food.

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