Beans, beans, the magical fruit…Nothing says southern cooking like a meal of pinto beans and cornbread.
Cooking a pot of beans is a simple, 3-step process. Sort. Soak. Simmer.
What is sorting and why does it need to be done? Even the best brands from the grocery store aren’t able to process beans perfectly and you don’t want your meal ruined by rocks or insects that slipped through. The best answer I found via an internet search was from a lady named Stephie at Seasoned Advice:
Sorting means a few things:
- Remove foreign objects like small stones, other seeds, twigs…. that may have accidentally been packed with the beans.
- Remove damaged (think insect damage, for example) or otherwise shriveled, infected or moldy beans and loose skins. Hint: Hollow beans and skins float up.
- Double-check for bug infestations. Sometimes there are little hitchhikers, even if you have impeccable hygiene at home.
It boils down to making sure you have nothing in the pot that doesn’t belong in your meal.
Some good advice is to sort them on a flat, white surface such as a counter or paper plate. Its much easier to see the dark or shriveled beans you’ll want to get rid of against that background.
Once your beans are sorted, you’ll wanna rinse them in a colander to remove dirt and dust. If your preparing these a day ahead, you can soak about 2 cups of beans in a bowl of 6-8 cups of water overnight or if you plan to cook that day, heavy boil them for about 5 minutes and remove from heat. Let them sit for an hour before cooking.
After your beans have soaked, drain and throw out the soaking water. (It wasn’t until I started using a cast-iron pot with a white enamel interior that I found out just how much dirt was left in that water after the soak. Nasty!)
Put the beans and 6-8 cups of water for every pound of dry beans in a stew pot and bring to a boil. For flavoring you can add salt and pepper, some chunks of salt pork, bacon, or ham, as well as some chopped onion or onion powder/salt. Cook over medium-low heat, covered but vented, until tender (about 1-1/2 – 2 hours). Make sure you stir and check every 15 minutes or so they don’t cook dry. Uncover and simmer until they reach a consistency of your preference.
Serve up with cornbread or muffins and your favorite condiments such as Tabasco or Texas Pete’s!