Heirloom Beans

Recently, I started thinking about dried beans. I’ve been cooking black beans and white beans, alternately. I cook an entire pot full, then freeze two thirds (in two packages), as one pound of beans easily makes three meals for us, including lunch leftovers. Black beans inevitably become semi-re-fried with onion and garlic and Penzey’s very delicious Southwest Seasoning. www.penzeys.com. White beans get a parmesian rind dropped in for the last 30 minutes, and then join swiss chard or kale and some sort of stock and shaved Parmesian, served with a side of crusty bread for a stew-y, soup-y, surprisingly light dinner.

Clearly, it was time to branch out. I went directly to www.ranchogordo.com – the most amazing source for heirloom beans. I showed it to Dennis, who never met a black bean he didn’t love, but was skeptical of most other beans. Naturally, he selected some black beans for us to try. I insisted on diversity, so we ended up with a black and white bean, Vaquero (http://www.ranchogordo.com/Merchant2/merchant.mvc?Screen=PROD&Store_Code=RG&Product_Code=VAQUERO01 ), and two others I will write about some other time.

Tonight’s dinner featured the Vaquero beans. Flour tortilla for burritos, with corn on the cob, sauteed sweet red onion and yellow summer squash, tomato, avocado and grated cheese on the side. And the recently ‘put-up’ roasted poblano salsa.

Beans are a great food, wonderful protein. Fresh beans are incredibly rich, satisfying, creamy and have a wonderful mouth feel.( The old, decrepit beans at the grocery store are dusty and stale.) Three cheers for heirloom beans. Try ’em. You’ll like ’em.

Pot beans

Rinse one pound of fresh dried beans in cold water, checking for small stones. Soak the beans in cold water to cover by 2″ for four to six hours. (Overnight soaking is fine. I generally start the beans soaking at breakfast, then cook them later in the afternoon.)

In a large, heavy stockpot (5 qt.), put beans, one onion, rough chopped, one tablespoon butter, and enough boiling water to cover the beans by two inches. I make ours vegetarian, but if you want to add a piece of salt pork, or a ham knuckle, go right ahead. And if you’re vegan, omit the butter, but stir in 1 Tbls. good oil at the end of cooking.

Bring the beans to a boil, then back off the heat to a lazy simmer and cover, cooking for 2-4 hours, depending on the bean. Test every 30 min. or so after the beans have been cooking for two hours. When nearly tender, add 1-2 tsp kosher salt.

Now the beans are ready to be eaten, as is, or made into anything else – just use as you would canned beans.

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