Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Beans, Beans the Musical....

Make your beans at home.  Really, you can do it in about 10 minutes or less of your time and they taste so much better and are healthier and cheaper than store bought canned ones.  With reports of BPA in canned goods, I've really been careful with what I buy canned and try to avoid buying them.  Another few bonuses of making your own beans is that you can flavor them as you wish, make them organic, and remove the gas causing stuff buy tossing in a carrot.  Did you know that last part?  We can all thank my mother-in-law for that little tid bit of info. :)
To get started, you can purchase dry beans at most grocery stores.  I prefer to get mine at Whole Foods in the bulk section.  There, I can get how ever much or little I want as well as the organic beans.  For this recipe today, I used pinto beans, but you can follow the same steps for black beans and northern beans.  Chickpeas can be done with these steps too, however I don't do the same flavoring and I don't puree them.
Next, pour the dry beans in to a large pot and do a quick sift through to check for any small stones.
Then cover the beans with cool water.  Make sure there is a couple of extra inches of top water in the pot.  Cover the pot and let the beans soak over night.  See, your hands on work so far is less than 2 minutes (except for going to the grocery store, but you had to do that anyway for other stuff too).
The next day whenever you are ready start cooking the beans (they will cook for about 2 hours, so if you want them for dinner, plan ahead) dump the beans and water in to a colander and rinse the beans off with cool water. 
Put the beans back in to your pot and add just enough water to cover them.  Next add an onion--you can just cut the ends off and then cut it in half--a carrot, several cloves of garlic--don't take the time to chop them up--a jalapeno or two if you want to spice your beans up a bit--and salt.  Don't forget your carrot--it's that magical ingredient that makes the beans less musical. :)
Those red pieces in my pot are an over ripe chopped jalapeno from the garden.  It added just the right amount of flavor.  For the tender tongues in my house, I slice the jalapenos in half, then scrape out the ribs and seeds to remove anything spicy.
Push the vegetables down in to the water and beans.  You might need to add a bit more water.  Don't add too much water or you'll end up with bean soup later.  Now you've spent about 3 minutes or so of your time with your beans, now it's time to just leave them alone after you cover your pot and turn the heat on.  Bring the pot to a boil, then turn the heat down to a simmer.  They will cook for about 2 hours.  If you feel like, you can peek in on them periodically and check the water level. The level will go down and that's good and okay.
After 2 hours, they will look like this:
Remove the carrot--carefully--it will fall apart a bit.  Leave everything else in the pot.  If you have some cilantro on hand, you can toss that in the pot now (just rinse it off and use your hands to tear it up a bit--stems and leaves).  Also, if you want, you can add some chopped tomatoes at this time.
Then, use your immersion blender** and puree those babies as much or little as you like.
We like our pinto beans in a "refried" bean texture, so I puree completely.
They are ready to eat now!  Yum!  Dip a spoon in that pot, and give them a try.  You might need to add some more salt (or some garlic powder).  I like to add a bit of cumin and oregano now too.  If they are a bit thicker than you care for, add either some water or chicken broth to desired consistency.
If you won't be eating them at this point--LET THEM COOL COMPLETELY!!!! before putting them in the fridge or freezer.  If you put hot or warm beans in the cold fridge/freezer they will SPOIL and go RANCID.  YUCK!
Yesterday I made a big pot of black beans for our black bean soup tomorrow.  Before pureeing, I scooped some of the beans out and set them aside.  I purposefully made the pureed beans a bit thick because I knew I'd be making soup with them later and adding the broth and other ingredients then.
**If you don't have an immersion blender (I use mine at least a couple times a day!) carefully put contents of pot in a blender.  Do this in small batches since they are hot.  After each portion is pureed, pour it in to a large bowl.


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