The Weston A. Price Way

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Lauding the Mighty Bean

Beans, beans, good for your heart.
Just be sure to get a head start!

As we round the corner to mid-January, (Can you believe it??), we settle into a cozy season of bean soups. As many do, we started our year with 'good luck' beans. Southern tradition dictates they be black-eyed peas, but I was out of both beans and time, so we sufficed with Split Pea Soup instead. Although beans are good all year, it is only after Christmas that my mind thinks on them and my body begins to crave them. Is it tradition or is it bodily intuition? Or perhaps the weather? Whatever it is, the rest of the year beans only make it into our diet in the form of bean hummus or green beans.

And no, we don't do soybeans here. Not raw and popular edamame. Not in our hamburgers. Not in any way that we can manage to avoid them. It's enough that we're bombarded with them in most everyday processed foods, which we, like so many who know the truth try to skirt around, but have difficulty doing all the time. Do you believe this bombardment comes because they are so good for us? Really? Think more on the level of their availability since our government pays farmers to nix other healthy greens and grains in favor of soybeans because they are so very cheap to use. (Tell Me More, Please.)

ALL my beans require some sort of pork/ham. I freeze leftover ham from Christmas and of course, I freeze the bone and anything still attached to it as well. If there is 'ham juice' left in the bottom of the roaster, that goes in the freezer, labeled 'ham juice', too. I have no objections to fatback from organically pasture-grazed pork, but the truth is, I seldom find the need for it when I throw in a ham bone and/or leftover ham chunks.

(On a side note, I never throw away leftover bacon on the rare occasion it exists...It's great for everything from leafy green and creamy pasta salads to sandwiches, garnishes for veggies, and it really comes in handy as a quick taste booster for soups and stews.)

To get rid of nutrient-blocking phytates, beans should be soaked. Some as much as 24 hours. The Weston A. Price Foundation recommends different times for different beans, with the shortest time being 10 hours and the longest being 24. I like things as simple a possible and I hate looking up times when ready to cook, so I just plan to soak my beans a day before I start cooking them.

Clean and sort through the beans, then soak them at the very lowest stove-top temp for at least an hour. Then  pour them out over a strainer, put them back in the pot and cover again. There's a lot of talk about soft water vs. hard water. I don't worry myself with this because as I said, keep it simple. I don't bother timing myself for changing the water every hour or two, I just change it as I think of it until bedtime.

Next morning, strain a final time, then add either a half-gallon jar of home-made chicken stock from pasture-grazed chickens or lacking that, a box of organic chicken stock. Throw in anywhere from a half to a whole chopped/diced onion, and a minimum of three cloves of diced garlic...if I have that much. In a pinch, onion and garlic powder will do. (Did you know you can make your own over time for cheap-cheap?- See next post for that easy how-to news.)

Remember your favorite other seasonings, like S & P, herbs, etc.

Cook low and slow.

Simmer covered on about '4' on my dial. I make sure the beans are covered with enough much as 5 inches above the beans. I use either more chicken stock, broth, or plain water for this.

When they're as thick as you like, they're ready. If you got a late start and your beans are cooking, but not ready at bedtime, don't bother refrigerating them. Just be sure they are covered with around 5 inches of water above them and cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid. Turn the heat to as low as it will go. In the morning, remove the lid, breathe in the aroma deeply, stir, and cook down to where you want them.

Obviously, this makes a cartload of bean soup for just the Sr. Chief and I, so we have plenty for unexpected/expected guests and unless there are 20 of them, we'll still have leftovers. I discovered this year that our 1-year old granddaughter adores leftover split pea soup. The wonderful thing about bean soups is that every time you eat them as leftovers, they're thicker and better than the time before. Some like them thick, like our granddaughter, and others will add a little water to loosen them up a bit. Whatever floats your boat.

Bean soup leftovers freeze well, too.

When I make Black-Eyed Pea, or mixed bean soups, I use the same method, but I add more 'stuff'.
Not always the same, but here are some of the things that may go in...sometimes all of them, sometimes only a few of them, but whenever possible, at least one of the tomato items:

(Go organic/home-grown organic if you can:)
diced tomatoes, tomato paste, OR EVEN ketchup (There are some organic ones now, you know!)
salsa (I use as much as 4 heaping tablespoons)
parsley/dried herbs
diced carrots

Why not try being an explorer and add your own stuff?

I'd like to stop right here but I can't without mentioning the frugality of bean consumption. Bean soups/stews, even without the scraps of meat added, provide a fantastic filling source of protein and vitamins.They last for more than a single meal in most households, stretching food dollars like a magical rubber band that won't snap back to hurt your fingers. The leftovers can be frozen for later or cooked until very thick, and blended with a variety of spices/ingredients to make tasty and nutritious dips, or additions to tacos and other culinary delights. If you can access this page, you can access ideas. They're only as far away as the internet.

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