Cooking with Dried Beans

Beans Beans, the musical fruit,
the more you eat the more you…
um, can fit in your suit! …because they’re healthy, too. Yeah, that’s it.
Anyway… A lot of people are intimidated by cooking with dried beans. You see the bags in the grocery store for $.99, but you think, “What would I do with them?” In this post, I’ll tell you some yummy, easy and inexpensive ways to cook with these little gems!

But first I’ll share a story from the first few years of my marriage. Ahem. I grew up in a half-Italian, have Irish family from the northeast. We savored pasta dishes, homemade spaghetti sauce (made by my dad, BTW!) etc. My favorite thing that my dad made was a delectable crab and shrimp dish. He made it almost every year on my birthday. Needless to say, this dish will not make it to Friday’s Frugal Feast, unless I can somehow catch the crab and shrimp myself.

My husband grew up in a southern family, and ate a lot of wonderful “meat and potatoes” type dishes, and yes, pinto beans. So after about a year of my Italian-inspired cooking, my husband asked me, “Do you think we could have, like, pinto beans or something?” I had never had a pinto bean on my plate in my life, unless they were refried and inside an enchilada. I didn’t quite get it. “Pinto beans? What do you mean?”

“You know, pinto beans with a ham hock and chow chow, and cornbread .”

Chow chow? (That’s a story for another day) You mean, you just eat the pinto beans, you don’t put them into anything else?”

“Yeah, we ate that a lot growing up.”

“mmmK, uh, I’ll try it.” Well, I ended up loving them when I learned how to cook them!

Here is the basic method for cooking dried pinto beans:

1. Soak beans overnight:
a. Put the beans in a bowl, cover with water, leave out on the counter all night.

b. Quick-soak method: In a large pot, combine 1 lb beans and 8 cups cold water. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer for 2 minutes. Remove pot from heat. Cover and let stand for 1 hour.

2. Cook beans in a crockpot on high for at least 8 hours.
There are several things you can add to give it wonderful flavor! I’ve tried all these and they are great!

a. A meaty ham hock or ham bone. Get these in your grocer’s meat section
b. About six strips bacon.
c. Italian sausage links. Layer them on top straight out of the refrigerator. We had this Wednesday, and it was fantastic!
d. Meaty beef soup bones
e. A ham hock, plus several sprigs of fresh thyme. After cooking, the leaves will fall off the thyme, and you can take out the stems.

3. When the beans are almost done, taste them. You may add salt, pepper, garlic, or hot sauce to taste.

4. Garnish with cheese, sour cream, or chow chow. (What the heck is chow chow?)

I usually make 1 or 2 whole packages at a time, then freeze what ever we don’t use.
I also use them in other dishes that week. (ex: Monday: Beans and Cornbread, Tuesday: Chicken and Bean Enchiladas.)

One bag of $.99 beans usually feeds about 8 people.

 

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