Every time I cook beans at home (almost weekly), we always enjoy a bowl of them served with warm tortillas and topped with chopped onion, cilantro, serrano pepper, crumbled fresh cheese, and a drizzle of olive oil.
Frijoles de la Olla (beans from the pot or bean stew) are originally those that are cooked in large clay pots, which are believed to give the beans a special flavor when cooked over an open fire. Nowadays people use pressure cookers and crock pots to make them. The romantic image of beans boiling in a clay pot over an open fire is hardly attainable in today’s modern and hectic world that’s filled with so many kitchen conveniences. Clay pots are becoming a thing of the past, and only here or there will you find a cook with a large clay pot that they hold as a dear cooking treasure.
Beans have been part of our Mexican culture since Prehispanic times, along with corn and peppers. But did you know that beans and corn form a complementary protein together? Many cultures around the world mix grains like lentils, beans and peas with wheat, corn, rice and oats to provide their bodies with the full range of essential amino acids that one needs to keep your body functioning property. In ancient times people didn’t consume much meat protein on a daily basis, they reserved that type of protein for celebrations or offerings in their rituals.
So basically, I’m just giving you a good and healthy excuse to enjoy a warm cup of beans!
MAKES ABOUT 7 TO 8 CUPS
- 1 Lb. Dried Black Beans (About 2 cups heap)
- 8 cups of water
- 1/4 of a large white onion
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled
- 1 Sping of Epazote
- 1 serrano pepper*
- Salt to taste
- 1 teaspoon of lard or olive oil **
- * The serrano peppers are optional
- * *Some cooks add one or two tablespoons of lard or vegetable oil. But that is optional as well. We drizzle olive oil at the time we serve the beans into each individual bowl.
- Black beans are common fare in the Mexican Gulf Coast, you can use pinto beans or any bean of your choice.
1. Clean the beans by passing them thru your hands and picking out any small rocks and dried up or broken beans. These have to be removed before cooking. Depending on the brand, some beans are already really clean and this step is not necessary.
2. Rinse the beans thoroughly. Have the onion and garlic ready.
3. Place the beans into a large stockpot with the onion and garlic. Add the water and lard, if using. Remove any beans that float to the surface, they are probably too old and damaged. Remember that beans expand while cooking, that is why you need a large pot. Do not add the salt yet! The skins of beans will become tough and it will prevent them from becoming tender and will burst. Add the salt until they are almost cooked.
4. Cover the pot and turn the heat to medium high and bring to a boil. When they start boiling, reduce the heat to simmer gently. The cooking time will depend on the freshness and size of the beans from, 1 1/2 hour up to 3 hours. Add hot water if needed during the cooking process to keep the level over 2 inches. Stir the beans occasionally.
5. When the beans look tender, add the Epazote Sprig and the Serrano Peppers if using. Season with salt. To prevent the pepper from bursting, make a small slit in the center of the pepper using a sharp knife before adding to the pot.
6. Keep cooking until the beans are soft. Some cooks like to mash a small amount of the cooked beans and then return them to the pot in order to have a thicker broth. Enjoy a warm cup of beans or let them cool and store in your fridge where they can last up to 4 days. You can also store them in small containers or freezer bags for later use.
What type of beans do you use more often?¡Buen provecho!