Ultimate best beans. Hot dogs optional

In keeping with the current idiotic national theme of complaining that we’re now a nation stuck on a hot dog and beans diet because Obama has personally, all by himself, messed up the economy for all time or at least until the Republicans can take over and fix it all overnight, here’s my recipe for the best beans in the world.

Cost? Minimal. You’ll need some leftover ham, or some ham hocks.

Go to the store and buy a bag of 15-bean soup mix. There is a brand name, and a store brand. The store brand may be 14 beans, or 16, I forget. Doesn’t matter. Beans are beans. There is a little bag of “ham flavor” in the bag which you may cheerfully throw away unopened. This would also work with just one type of beans, but the 15-bean mix looks prettier.

While the beans are still dry check for rocks and so forth. I’ve never found one, but you never know. Soak the beans over night in lightly salted water. Put them in a big pot before you go to bed and cover with a couple inches of water. Cover. 

Some recipes say you can boil the beans and let them soak an hour before cooking. If you are in a hurry, go ahead, but overnight soak works best.

In the morning, before 10 a.m. if this is for dinner, drain the water out and add about 6 cups of water. Set the beans on a slow boil, watch carefully for boil-overs until they settle down, then simmer. You want just a very tiny boil going on.

Add a coarsly chopped up onion (fist-sized) , a couple cups of chopped up leftover ham or a couple of ham-hocks. If you have the bones the ham came on, toss those in too. I always save up holiday ham bones for this. Toss in a bay leaf, half a dozen peppercorns.

That’s pretty much it. Bacon adds good flavor as well, but is optional. I made some beans with a hunk of salt pork recently and it was good, but you definitely need to watch any salt you add.

Allow the beans to simmer for about 5 hours. I know, the package talks about one or two, but ignore that. You want to cook those beans down until they fall apart and, with the ham, form a thick soup, not beans in thin broth. You want a long-simmered flavor melding thing going on.

Stir the beans every hour or so and revel in the amazing smell that fills the kitchen. Watch the level and add water to keep it a nice soupy consistency, not too thick, not too thin. Maybe a little thicker than New England clam chowder.

The recipe on the bag calls for tomatoes at some point. I’ve never done this, but it can’t hurt. The beauty of this recipe is its simplicity, a nice back-to-basics meal that matches the national mood.

Salt? Add sparingly at first, and none at all if using salt pork. With ham, don’t add any for an hour or so because you don’t know how salty the ham is.

That’s it. When dinner time rolls around you’ve got a wonderful and cheap feast for four, with enough leftover to feed another two, at least. Make some corn bread, a nice green salad, you have a good Depression-era meal that will hold you until morning very nicely.

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5 Responses to Ultimate best beans. Hot dogs optional

  1. Doug Gibson says:

    The corn bread just makes the meal perfect! I suggest lentils if you ever get tired of beans!

  2. Bob Becker says:

    This kind of cooking is why crock pots were invented. Put it on the AM, and when you get home from work, it’s ready. Works for pinto beans w/beer ["drunken beans" or "borracho" beans, I think it is, in Spanish], red beans and rice, etc. If you have a Cuban friend who will part with his/her old family black bean recipe, it’ll work for that too. Crock pot cookery was a life saver when we both were working full time and had kids to feed too.

  3. Ham/Hamhocks not necessary at all – beans & spices are a perfectly healthy nutrient-dense food that won’t clog your arteries. Throw in some smoked paprika or a little liquid smoke for the flavor. Just sayin :)

  4. Neal Humphrey says:

    My bean recipe varies so much from batch to batch that it’s useless to try to report it. ‘Just two things.

    First – I usually cook with Anasazi beans, which I buy in 50 or 100 pound lots when I pass through Dove Creek, Colorado.

    Second – My recipe is known as “Gossipin’ Beans” … ’cause they talk behind your back.

  5. Kris Baker says:

    I always add the tomatoes, diced celery and carrots plus a teaspoon of chile powder. (Yes, only a teaspoon – you’re not making chile, but you’re adding a bit of flavor.) No meat.

    CATHERINE: Ours is meatless, too.

    BOB: You must be the one person in the world who can cook with a crock pot. Everything I’ve always put in, whether it’s chicken or chiles, comes out tasting the same. My bad luck is your good fortune.

    NEAL: Sacco’s has bags of Anazsi beans, if you don’t want to make the trek to Dove Creek.

    Did anyone see Bill Clinton this week, talking about his recent weight loss? He was still having arterial problems, so is now eating a plant-based diet. He’s lost 24 pounds.

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