Many, many years ago, when I got married, someone gave me a bucket of pinto beans as a start to my food storage. I had grown up eating beans so I thought this was great. It took a lot of trial and error, though, to figure out how to successfully cook beans. Often when I tried to cook them they would remain hard after hours and hours of cooking. Ever heard the expression "tough beans"? Well, I came to understand it pretty well. When you have "tough beans" there's not much you can do about it! Now after many years of cooking and experimenting with different kinds of beans, pintos are still my favorite. They have a creamy, buttery flavor when cooked from scratch that I love. Who knows, maybe it's just because that's the kind of beans my mother always cooked. They are definitely a comfort food for me!
Pinto beans are available right now at the Stake Cannery. The price is $15.46 for 25 pounds.
HOW TO COOK BEANS
Sorting: First of all, dried beans must be sorted, or picked over, before you can cook them. There will often be small, bean-sized dirt clods or pebbles in among the beans. To sort them, carefully dump out a cupful of beans on a clean counter top. Don't dump them from any height, or they'll bounce and roll off the counter onto the floor. Sort through the beans a few at a time, looking closely for little rocks.
Washing: Place the beans in a bowl and cover with lukewarm water. Swish them around with your fingers. Drain and repeat until the water is clear.
Soaking: Dried beans must be soaked before they can be cooked. I know of two methods for soaking - quick and slow. I prefer the quick method. I found that I never had time for the slow method, as it requires remembering the night before that you want to have beans for dinner the next day. This just didn't work out for me very well. :)
Slow method: Place washed beans in a bowl and cover with water by an inch. Let sit overnight or for 12 hours.
Quick method: Place washed beans in a pot and cover with water by an inch. Place on high heat. As soon as it comes to a simmer, turn off the heat and let the beans sit for about an hour. When you can push your thumbnail into a bean, they're ready.
Cooking: I know of three methods for cooking beans: simmer in a pot on the stove top, simmer in a crockpot, or cook in a pressure cooker. The crockpot and stove top methods probably take about the same amount of time, but the crock pot has the advantage that it will not scorch on the bottom. I'm the kind of person who walks away and forgets things, so I prefer the crock pot method if I'm not in a hurry. :)
Stove top: Place soaked beans in a pot and cover by an inch of water. (If you used the quick soak method above, just keep the beans in the same pot and add more water if needed.) You may add seasoning at this point, but NOT SALT!! If you add salt at the beginning, your beans will more likely remain hard. Bring to a boil and simmer for 1-4 hours until beans are soft. You can test the beans by taking one out and trying to mash it with a fork. If it mashes easily, they're done. At this point you can add salt.
Crockpot: Place soaked beans in a crockpot and barely cover with water. You may add seasoning at this point INCLUDING SALT. I've found with the crockpot, you can add salt at the beginning of the cooking process without ill effect. Set the crockpot on high and place the lid on the pot. Cook for 4 hours, or until soft. Test beans by mashing one with a fork, as above.
Pressure cooker: This is the method I use most often. With the quick soak method above and a pressure cooker, you can have dried beans ready to eat in 2 hours. Not super fast, I know, but it's pretty quick in the bean world. :) Place soaked beans in pressure cooker and cover with water by one inch, being sure you don't fill with water higher than the fill line on the inside of your pressure cooker. You may add all your seasoning, INCLUDING SALT. Follow the cooking directions that came with your pressure cooker. Just as an example, my pressure cooker booklet says to place over high heat. When the rocker begins to rock, reduce the heat medium and keep a slow steady rock going for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and allow the pressure to drop on it's own. Voila! You have beans ready to add to a recipe!!
A WORD ABOUT MILLET
Millet is a small round grain that most Americans only see in bird seed. It is, in fact, one of the most nutritious grains in the world. It is a complete protein, and therefore is considered to be one of the least allergenic and most digestible grains available. It is often used in rescue situations as a first food for malnutritioned people because of it's so gentle on the digestion.
So why talk about millet in the context of beans? I'll tell you why! It has the same enzyme as Beano! I put a small handful of millet in my beans every time I cook them (about 1-1/2 to 2 tablespoons).
BASIC PINTO BEAN RECIPE
2 cups dry pinto beans, sorted and soaked.
Water - enough to cover, per cooking method above
1-2 tablespoons millet
1 teaspoon salt (leave out til end of cooking if using stove top method)
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon oregano
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon olive oil
Cook according to above method. When done, use in your favorite chili recipe, layered bean dip, or refried beans.
Note: If you're going to make one of those mock pinto bean desserts, such as Pinto Bean Pecan Pie or Pinto Bean Fudge, leave out all seasoning.
Another note: One thing I didn't know when I was a young bride is that pinto beans need to be refrigerated after cooking! Like other foods that are high in protein, such as meat, they spoil quickly. Unfortunately, I had to learn that the hard way.
Yet another note: Cook up a big batch of beans, then rinse, drain and put the left overs in the freezer in zip-top bags in 1-2 cup portions, according to your recipes. Defrost in refrigerator when ready for use.
NACHOS, AKA REFRIED BEANS
Try having a pot of these ready in a crockpot when your teenagers get home from school. They'll love it for an afternoon snack of nachos, and it's healthy!
One recipe of cooked pinto beans above
2 teaspoons taco seasoning mix
2 cups mild cheddar cheese, grated
Salt to taste
3 T butter or olive oil
1 cup salsa/picante sauce, mild
1 can chopped mild chilies
1 small can olives, chopped
2 green onions, chopped
1 pkg nacho chips
Working in batches, place beans and cooking liquid in a blender and blend on medium speed until smooth, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides. Blend 1/2 of the beans at a time. When blending the second half of the beans, place the following in the blender along with the beans: taco seasoning mix, butter or oil, salsa or picante sauce, chopped green chilies, and 1 cup grated cheese. Blend until puree has a very smooth consistency. Place all the bean puree into a crockpot and mix very well. Taste and add 1 teaspoon of salt if needed. Sprinkle the remaining cup of grated cheese, the green onions, and the chopped olives on top of the bean mixture in the order given. Turn the crockpot on low and cover with lid. When the cheese has melted (about 15 minutes), serve with nacho chips and picante sauce, placed in separate bowls. Serves 8 people.