Beans-R-Us

You know the rest, right?

😉

Beans are truly a superior food, as most of the world knows; they’re cheap, versatile and really good for you. Beans are high in antioxidants, fiber, protein, B vitamins, iron, magnesium, potassium, copper and zinc. There’s some argument that including beans regularly in your diet may help reduce the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and colorectal cancer. And beyond all that, they’re genuinely filling and delicious.

So is there such a thing as a fartless bean? Well, sorta, yeah. Soaking dry beans overnight definitively works, as does cooking beans in the left over liquor from the last batch you cooked. Lately, there are reports that a couple of probiotics, Lactobacillus casei and Lactobacillus plantarum added to beans will cause them to produce less fartáge, but I’ve not tried that. Soaking them overnight, (8 to 12 hours), actually starts the germination process, breaks down some of the complex bean sugars and thereby causes less hot air.

When it comes to shopping, you’ll get better quality and flavor out of dried beans then canned, as well as more beans for your buck. Now, if you see a killer deal on canned beans, don’t pass them up; I snagged a dozen 15 ounce cans for $6 at my local store the other day.

To get the best out of canned beans, definitely rinse them before you use them. The liquid in canned beans contains a bunch of starch and salt that you just don’t need. Rinsing that out with plenty of nice, cold water will get rid of the crap, improve flavor, and helps remove the metallic taste you sometimes get with a canned bean.

Now for dried beans: Soaking really necessary,  it if it’s what you’ve always done, then do it. If you just don’t have enough time for a proper overnight soak, you can do a speed soak: Rinse your beans thoroughly in cold water, then toss them in a pot and cover with 3+ inches of nice, cold water. Bring ’em almost to a boil, until little bubbles are forming around the edge of the pot like when you scald milk. Pull ’em off the heat and let them sit uncovered for an hour. Drain ’em and then cook ’em. I always like low and slow as possible when cooking beans, they can develop flavor and marry whatever you put in with them.

If you’re using lentils, split peas or little bitty beans of some other variety, you can just toss ’em into a soup or stew with no soaking and let them do the low and slow with the rest of the gang. So long as you’ve got a few hours cooking time, they’ll end up just fine.

And speaking of varieties, stock up folks! We keep the following in our pantry at all times: Kidney, Pinto, Great Northern, Black, Garbanzo, Split, Lentils (red, white and green), Pink, and Cannellini. There are a bunch more out there, especially with the resurgence in heirloom varieties these days; try ’em, you’ll like ’em.

Like baked beans? Make your own, they’ll beat the tail off of anything from a can. Great Northerns are one of my fave legumes. They’re the big, white ones with a nice firm texture and delicate flavor; they are perfectly suited to soaking up all the rich flavors of a great baked bean.

1 Pound Great Northern Beans
1/2 Pound thick cut Pepper Bacon
1 medium Sweet Onion
1-3 Jalapeño Chiles
2 Cups Pork Stock, (Chicken or veggie is fine too)
1 Cup Tomato Purée
1/2 Cup dark brown Sugar
1/4 Cup Blackstrap Molasses
1 teaspoon Sea Salt

Soak your beans overnight in a glass container. Use enough water to cover the beans by a good 3″ to 4″.

Preheat oven to 250° F.

Cut bacon into 1/4″ cubes or pieces. Mince onion, field strip and dice jalapeño.

In a large oven-safe casserole or pot over medium high heat on your stove top, cook the bacon until it starts to get crispy. Remove the bacon and set it on a pepper towels to drain.

Add onion and jalapeño and onion and cook until the onion starts to get translucent.

Add the tomato purée, sugar, molasses, and salt, blend well; reduce heat to low.

Drain the bean liquid into a measuring cup; keep 2 cups of that.

Toss the drained beans into the casserole. Add the 2 cups of bean liquor, the pork stock and the salt. Return to medium high heat and bring everything to a rolling boil.

Slide that baby into the preheated oven and allow to cook for at least 6 hours, and 8 is better.

Hands down, our favorite version is a classic Tex-Mex bean; here’s how we do ours,

Go-To Tex Mex Beans

1 16 ounce can (Or 16 ounces dry) Black Beans
1 Cup stock, (Pork preferred, beef or Veg OK)
1 Tablespoon Shallot, minced
1/4 jalapeño chile, stemmed, seeded, cored and minced.
1/4 Roma Tomato, stemmed, cored, seeded and minced.
1 strip Bacon, diced
1/2 teaspoon ground Coriander
Sea Salt & ground Pepper to taste

If using dry beans, soak overnight per directions, drain and rinse. If you used canned beans, pour them into a sieve and rinse until the water runs clear.

Heat stock to rolling boil over medium-high heat, reduce to low as soon as it gets there.

Throw everybody into the pot and cook low and slow, covered, for at least an hour, and more is better. If things start to get a bit thick, add more stock to desired consistency. We like the jus to coat a spoon, like a thin soup.

Salute!