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Beans, Beans--Who Spilled the Beans/

By Jane Butel  March 31, 2020

Just recently, I have started getting more than usual orders for our beans--pinto, black and bolita.  Believe it or not, the pinto bean is far and away the healthiest of all beans.  The lighter, whitish colored ones are the freshest and take the least time to cook. I am going to give you my favorite way to cook beans and you can cook any kind of beans the same way.  The recipe calls for cooking the beans with a smoked pork hock, fresh onion, garlic and water.  Then when  the beans begin to soften when you mash one against the side of the pot, start adding chicken stock instead of water and let them simmer until the beans are very soft.  If you are vegetarian, you can omit the hock and instead of chicken stock--add vegetable stock.  My favorite stock base is "Better Than Bouillon" and the base comes in several different varieties--just add a glob to the water, tasting until the flavor is just right.  Add salt to taste along with the bouillon to get the just right flavor.

The Northern Mexican diet based principally on beans and corn is considered just as healthful as the Mediterranean diets.  Black beans are not nearly as healthful--but are great--especially  in Black Bean Soup and with rice--actually any bean goes well with rice.  

Bolita beans are a relative newcomer to bean cooking.  To me they seem like a cross between the pinto and the black bean.  They are a little sweeter and creamier textured than the pinto and supposedly are easier on the digestive system.

To make it a bit easier to purchase them, I am reducing our price by 50 cents each until Friday. 

While in lock down, bean cooking makes lots of sense and the aroma wafting through the house is very delightful. Beans freeze especially well and can be combined or underline chili. 

The true Texas style or Bowl o Red style of chili has no beans so if you want beans, you just place them under the chili.  The reason beans and other vegetables got in chili was explained to me by my maternal Grandfather who was the chief executive in charge of line extensions of the original Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad.  The reason he knew so much was he was positioned in Dodge City for a few years adjusting the contracts with the farmers and got to chat a great deal with cookies who cooked the trail and fed the cowboys herding the cattle to the rail head. As he explained it, oftentimes the pot of chili which the cowboys ate 3 times a day would be getting kind of thin and needed stretching out to get them fed all the way to "Dodge".  So as they passed through Oklahoma, the cookies would add beans--then they added tomatoes and other vegetables to stretch out the chili and make it look red again as though it had chile added. 


More highly flavored than ordinary beans, these can be served as is as a side dish or as a main course with sliced ham on the side. In any case, top them with chopped onions and pickled jalapeno chiles. Corn bread is a must.

Yield: 2 quarts or 4 to 6 servings

1 pound dried pinto beans

1 ham hock, ham bone or ½ pound salt pork


1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 cup coarsely chopped Spanish onion (1 medium to large onion)

1 teaspoon salt or to taste

3 or 4 cups rich chicken stock or as needed

  1. Rinse and sort beans, picking out any foreign objects. Place beans and ham hock in a heavy 5-quart pot. Add enough water to come about 3 inches above the level of the beans and meat. Boil 10 minutes, reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes, uncovered.
  2. Add the pepper, garlic, and onion and simmer 2 hours or until a bean will mash easily against the side of the pot. Add chicken stock as needed to keep the liquid level about 1 inch above the level of the bean mixture. When beans are done, cook to reduce the liquid to the desired consistency.



This is a very popular soup in the southwest and can be the basis for lots of variations, including serving with a companion soup. When I had my restaurant in New York City, this was a staple and very popular—we made oceans of it daily.

Yield: 6-8 servings

4 to 5 cups chicken broth

3 cups dried black beans, sorted and rinsed

2 meaty ham hocks

5 garlic cloves, minced

2 ½ teaspoons salt

1 cup diced onion

1 Tablespoon ground cumin

2 Tablespoons ground pure hot chile

¼ cup pickled jalapeno chile juice, or to taste

sour cream, minced green onion, and crushed Caribe chile for garnish

rum or sherry, optional

1. Combine the chicken broth and 4 cups of water in a large kettle and add the beans, ham bocks, garlic, salt, onion, cumin, and ground chile. Cook, adding more water if necessary, until the beans are tender; they should be soft when mashed against the side of a pan. Stir in the pickle juice to taste. Adjust seasonings, if desired.

2. Spoon soup into bowls; drizzle with a Tablespoon of rum or sherry, optional; then garnish with a dollop of sour cream, topped with green onions and a sprinkle of crushed chile.

Reprinted with Permission from Jane Butel’s Hotter Than Hell




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