I grew up eating beans and cornbread. My father was born in Oklahoma and traveled across the country to California when he was 2 years old. His parents had been farmers, but when the war started Pappy went to the ship yards in Richmond. He went on his own and Grammy, one of her friends and their children came by car with all their worldly goods. I learned a lot from my Grammy's cooking style. I also spent a lot of time in their garden. I still dream about being in my grandparents garden. Like many people who have relocated, they grew the traditional foods they could not buy at a store. The okra flowers were beautiful, like yellow and maroon hibiscus. Fried okra, black eyed peas, musk mellon and all kinds of peppers were grown each summer. Their apricot tree was like a candy tree to me.
All of this is why beans are my ultimate comfort food. There are some tricks to making them good and digestible that are well worth learning. Dry beans are not a fast food. But, neither are they as hard as folks seem to think. It's weird to think that cooking an important staple food has become such a mystery in three generations.
Here are the bean rules:
1. Sort and wash. You do not want to bite a bean-shaped stone.
2. Soak. Overnight, or longer, in cold water. Or, alternately, start with the beans in plenty of cold water, bring to a boil, remove from heat and let stand for one hour.
3. Drain and rinse. This removes many of the components that cause gas.
4. Cook to desired tenderness without salt or acid. These inhibit the absorption of water by the beans.
5. To further reduce gas, simmer with a piece of kombu. This is a type of seaweed.
6. To complete the protein, serve with grains of some sort.
7. The more you eat beans, the more your digestive system with adjust.
8. Beano works!
What makes these beans so flavorful is the use of smoked pork ribs. We have a little deli, called Roxie, a block from our house. They have a big smoker out in front and Wednesday is rib day. So good! We usually get a full rack and eat them for a couple of days, then I make beans with the few remaining ribs. If you are in the Sacramento area, do stop by Roxie. They make awesome sandwiches too.
Roxie Rib Beans
2 cups pinto beans
5-6 meaty, smoked pork ribs
1 onion, chopped
1 tbsp. chipotle in adobo sauce, chopped or mashed
1 clove garlic, minced
1 15 oz. can or jar of diced tomatoes
1/4 cup molasses
2 tsp. salt
Sort and rinse the beans. Place the beans in a large bowl and cover with cold water by at least two inches. Place in fridge and allow to soak over night. You can also do a quick soak by placing the cleaned beans into a large pot. Cover with cold water by at least two inches. Bring to a boil. Cover and remove from heat and let stand for 1 hour.
When ready to cook, drain the soaking water and place the beans in a large pot and add 4 quarts of water and the ribs. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cover with the lid ajar. Cook the beans at a slow simmer until tender and the meat is falling from the bones. Remove the ribs bones and tear the meat off with a fork. Return the meat to the pot. Add the onion, chipotle, garlic and tomatoes. Simmer, uncovered, until the beans are very soft and the broth has thickened. Add the salt and taste.
This makes a big pot of beans. Serve with cornbread. I had mine with crackers today. (Too hot to bake in June!) Enjoy!