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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Three Sisters Stew

Here's another soup for your consideration. One of my favorite cookbooks is the Farm Journal's Country Cook Book.  It is loaded with very tasty recipes and is a snap shot of mid-century and mid-continent America. If you want to know how to culture and churn butter, bake a cake or pit roast a whole cow, this book is for you. One of the funny things about these kinds of books is that they often talk about the "energy" in food, aka calories. I guess if you are working a farm instead of a desk, you need to make sure lots of calories get into your food. They have one recipe for Supper Waffles that includes a whole cup of melted butter! Now that's some energy!

One of my favorite recipes from this book is called Indian Beans. As this recipe is obviously not from India, I'm afraid the name is not so PC. However, the taste is delicious. They are rather like baked beans but seasoned with cinnamon, a little sugar and apple cider vinegar. This stew started out with these beans in mind.

Lucky me, I have some serious gardeners in my life. My friend, Miss Pauline, had just about the most amazing garden ever this spring. She brought me a whole cooler full of yummy veg - all organic and completely beautiful. Her gift to me included two sugar pie pumpkins. I've never cooked pumpkins before, but I love orange squashes. To prepare these, I cut them in half, scooped out the guts, cut the halves in half, rubbed with some oil and roasted in a 350 oven until tender. These took about 45 minutes. I like the caramel flavor that developed from the toasty parts.

After I let them cool, it was easy to use my fingers to pull off the shell and then I cut into chunks. For this stew, I used one quarter of a pumpkin. The rest was processed for pie. This pumpkin was less dense than butternut squash, but just as sweet. You could use either.

I named this Three Sisters Stew because I added corn and pumpkin to the original recipe. It is a Native American traditions to grow maize, beans and squash together. The maize would provide poles for climbing beans and the squash would grow around the bottom. Miss Pauline grew them this way. You should have seen some of the beautiful heirloom beans and corn she grew!

This is another soup that starts with dried beans. Do not fear the beans! Here are the simple steps for making dried beans fit easily into your busy life:

  1. Measure, sort and wash - No kidding - I've found bean shaped rocks many a time.
  2. Soak - You have two ways to go with this - Overnight soak - Place beans in lots of water and place in the fridge overnight. Drain and begin your recipe with new water. Quick soak - Place beans in a pan with cold water to cover by about two inches. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat and cover. Let stand 1 hour. Drain and begin your recipe with new water.
  3. Cook - There are also two ways to cook - Stove top - Add beans and water to a pan with a heavy bottom and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until tender. Crock Pot - Add beans and water to crock pot and cook on high for about 4 hours for larger beans like pintos or chick peas. 

Tips -

  • If you cook on the stove top, keep an eye on it! I've had beans foam over and put out my gas burner. (This is why I love the Crock Pot!)
  • Do not add salt or acid foods until after the beans have already become tender. Salt and acid can inhibit the beans cooking correctly.
Three Sisters Stew
1 lb. dry pinto or pink beans (I used a combo)
3 quarts water
1 small onion, diced
1 cup diced celery
1/2 cup diced peppers (I used gypsy peppers)
1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 cup diced ham
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
3 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 cup sweet corn kernels 
3 cups cooked and cubed pumpkin or squash

Use one of the soaking methods above. Drain and cook the beans in 3 quarts of water, using one of the cooking methods used above. When beans are tender, add remaining ingredients except for corn and pumpkin and simmer, uncovered until it reaches desired thickness. This will take longer in the crock pot. Before serving, add the corn and pumpkin and heat through. Adjust seasoning and serve.

This makes a lot, but will depend on how long you cook after adding the veg. My recipe, pictured above, made about 9 cups. I like mine with a shot of Tapatio.

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