Beans must be our number one here, because they are the most basic food of mexican families. You can find them along the country made in several different ways. As you might – or not – know, Mexico is a vast territory, many precolombine cultures existed (mayans, aztecs, olmecs, totonacs, etc.), some like rarrámuris, huichols, nahuatls and othe ethnical groups, still preserve their languages and traditions. A fact is that each one of them has left a unique culinary heritage to us all, here and beyond.
Mexico is nowadays a gathering of different regions, so to speak, each region has its own way to cook, use different ingredients, some prefer to fry, others to just boil, some are spicier while others are fresher. Today I will show you how to cook black beans, the way the majority of mexicans make them. Have in mind that this methos also works to cook lentils, kidney beans, lima beans, haricots and chickpeas (for further recipes).
YOU WILL NEED
– 500 grams of black beans (can be substituted with any bean you find to approach the final taste).
– one thick slice of onion for taste (I always skip this, I find it unnecessary).
– salt, about three tablespoons for the cooking water.
– salt, to adjust to taste when beans are fully cooked.
SORTING AND WASHING
In Mexico, you can buy beans at the local market, supermarkets or “tiendas” (our term for small grocery store). They commonly have tiny chunks of rock or defected grains, so we have to sort them out, from half a kilo we usually get five to ten pieces out to discard. Even if you find packaged raw beans or other grains, make sure they come completely clean and so you can avoid chipping a tooth or just sensing a disgusting texture in your tasteful beans, not yummy!
TRADITIONAL COOKING METHOD
Mexican artisans through the country craft clay pots, polish them and put them inside a stone made oven, the result is our typical cooking pot: cazuela. Typical yet not solely mexican, spaniards have them too. Their origin seems to be also precolombine, since they have been found in almost every archaeological excavation. When people don’t have a fast cooking pot, they set the beans covered with water overnight to make them tender and let them cook faster. Next day they just drain them and put to boil with clean water, often a thick slice of onion, oil, salt and “epazote”, a leaf used as condiment that usually grows wildly in the backyard. No need to plant it. The beans boil and boil on low fire for five hours or until tender. You can try this if you have plenty of time or if you happen to have some sort of cazuela.
FAST COOKING POT METHOD (recommended to save time)
After the sorting, set your beans in a percolator and wash them under running water, or if you prefer, put them in a bowl and cover them with water, shake a little to remove particles of dust and drain, repeat until water comes out clean.
Fill the pot with water until two thirds of its capacity if you want your beans gooey or add more water if not. I like them runny, so I usually fill almost three quarters of the pot (a bit less maybe, see the pic), add salt and toss the clean beans in it.
Cover the pot with its lid and set to cook for 40 minutes or until tender, turned them off prematurely? That’s okay, don’t drain and return them to fire…my pot starts whistling after ten minutes upon high flame, start counting from that point. And yep, open up all windows and shot the kitchen’s door if you have one, because they have a strong smell (mind the expression, farty). No worries please, it’s normal and they don’t taste like their aroma 😉
Tick, tock and they’re ready! Adjust salt to taste (carefully, they’re obnoxious when too salty or with no salt at all). Anyhoo, they can be served in several ways like you will find in my next post. Thanks for reading and enjoy, ¡buen provecho!
TIPS AND COMMENT
If you will cook beans in the clay pot, you must know the final taste will be a bit earthy, so to say, not bad but different, many folks may find it not-so-pleasant.
As for to store your beans, they can be kept frozen for up to 2 months. To freeze them, first let them sit and coo. If you keep them in the fridge, then make sure to bil them every other they to prevent them from rotting.