Monday, February 23, 2015

Pinto Beans


Or simply, "a pot of beans" or "beans" in my family.  Beans were a standard in my family growing up, especially in colder weather.  We had them at any large family gathering such as Thanksgiving and Christmas.  I can remember sitting at the kitchen table cleaning beans with my mom and dad.  Mom or Dad would pour the bag of beans on the table and I'd use my little hand to scoop some to my spot at the table.  Mom gave me a big bowl to sit on my lap and taught me to pick out the rocks, pieces of beans, and bean halves.  Everything else got scooped off the table into the bowl.  Pat...pat...pick out a pebble or piece of bean...scoop into the bowl.  It was a fun time of "helping" in the kitchen and training for life. It was also a time to connect with my parents.  Sweet memories of that old gray formica table and cleaning beans! (Today's beans are a lot cleaner, but I still like to clean them just to make sure I get whole beans and no little pebbles in mine.)

I like to slow cook mine over a low flame or in a slow cooker and I start the night prior to when I want to eat them.  This bean recipe is also the base for chili in my family. 

Pinto Beans
3-4 Cups dry pinto beans
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped (Can use more)
1/2 t (or more) garlic powder
1/4 t (or more) cumin
Bacon slices (about 1/2 pound) or salt pork

Measure out your beans.  I usually start with 4 cups of beans.  Rinse beans in a colander and then place in a dutch oven, stock pot, or slow cooker.  Pour enough water to cover the beans and allow for expansion. (The last time I cooked beans I had about 4 C of beans and about 12 C of water.) Soak beans overnight in 1/2 t salt per 2 cups of water.  If you're watching your salt, use 1/4 t salt per 2 C of water. Cover with tight fitting lid and let them set overnight.

In the morning, to the water & beans add the remaining ingredients. If you want it spicier, add more garlic and cumin, but don't overdo it on the cumin.  You can also leave out the cumin and just use garlic and bacon or salt pork. If you use bacon, I recommend cutting each slice into fourths. As my mom said, "If it doesn't smell spicy enough, keep adding more garlic."

Slowly bring to a boil over medium heat.  Once boiling, turn down to simmer for 6-8 hours, or until tender.  Add warm water as needed throughout cooking process to keep beans from burning.

If you're using a slow cooker, add the onion and spices in the morning, cover and place on LOW for 6-8 hours.

Top with cheese and your choice of toppings and serve over cornbread,or as a side for any meal.  (I don't like soggy cornbread, so I don't do this, but my dad loves to plop his cornbread in his bowl then pour the beans on top.)