Monday, August 10, 2009

My Southern Style Pintos

The story:

Growing up, pinto beans were a staple. We ate them at least once a week. Sometimes we ate them as a meal and sometimes we ate them as an accompaniment to a main dish like meatloaf or roast beef and usually always with mashed potatoes. I always loved pintos no matter how we ate them or how often we ate them. I later learned that we didn't have very much money when I was a kid and my mother had to be creative with our meals and stretch her grocery budget as far as she could. It is amazing how far a bag of beans and rice will get you.
Over the years I have modified my pinto beans recipe in a few different ways depending on the meal I am planning. In this recipe we will focus on the pinto beans as an accompaniment to a main course such as Meatloaf. I will post my modifications which include Charro Pintos and Hamburger Pintos with Sweet Cornbread in various other postings. So look for them in the future.

The Ingredients:
2 lbs. Pintos
1 Large White Onion
2 T. Garlic Powder
2 T. Lawry's Season Salt
1 T. Tomatoe Bouillon with Chicken Flavor
2 T. Black Pepper
1 Lg. Ham Steak
Salt to taste

The Preparations:
First you must prepare the beans. Pour all of the beans onto the counter and sort them from the broken beans and dirt and gravel. Make sure that you are only cooking beans and not the earth, otherwise you will be eating bits of grit. Place your sorted beans in a large soup pot. Rinse them over and over scrubbing them together with your hands until the water stays clear. Then cover the beans with at least two inches of water.

If you plan far enough ahead you can soak your beans in the water over night. It will significantly reduce the cooking time. However, if you are like me and run to the store the morning ofthen you will just need to cook them slower and longer.

Chop the onion in large quarter size pieces and add to the pot. Trim the fat off of the ham steak and cut into quarter size pieces. Place them in the pot. Make sure you water level is 2-3" above your ingredients and place on high heat until boiling.

Add in your seasonings and let boil 15- 20 minutes on high, stirring occassionaly. Check your water level and make sure it is still at 2-3" above your solids. Reduce to heat to a simmer and cover. The beans will take 3-4 hours to cook, the softer the better but don't over cook them because they can turn to mush. During the 3-4 hours you will need to keep an eye on them. The water will absorb and evaporate. You must maintain your water level throughout. You must also continually taste your beans to make sure the flavor is not diluted. Be careful with adding too much salt. It is better to under season than over season. If after the beans are completely done, you think they are a little bland, add in the desired level of seasoning to taste after they are cooked.
The measurements I listed above are just to get you started. You may actually use more than my suggested seasoning. I would not however, use more of the Tomato Bouillon because it is a strong seasoning and very salty.
A special note in case you scorch the beans:
In the event you got busy and were away from the beans too long, they may have started to scorch. If they feel like they are stuck to the bottom of the pan, stop! Do not stir them any more. Turn them off and get another pot. Transfer the beans into the new pot. DO NOT SCRAPE the bottom of the old pot. This is where the scorched flavor is and it will ruin your beans. What ever falls into the new pot when you pour is what you are able to salvage. Hopefully, you weren't gone too long and you are able to salvage most of your beans.
Once the beans are in the new pot, add in the water needed to reach the 2-3" mark above your solids and stir. Taste the beans and their juices and see if it tastes scorched try to separate your sense of smell from your sense of taste because your house will have the scorched smell but the beans may taste just fine. If you are certain the beans taste scorched then you will have to throw them out and start over. If not or only a slight hint, then I would keep them and continue on. If there is only a slight hint of scorchedness you can probably over power the flavor by adding more water and continuing to season as needed.
I hope this doesn't happen to you because it is very frustrating, but if it does, the key is DO NOT STIR up your mess!

The Accompaniments:
Beans are great over white rice
Add in a little Green or Red Tobasco Sauce
Never forget the bean partner, Tobasco Peppers in Vinegar
Sweet Cornbread

Serving Instructions:
The serving instructions are simple, just ladel them out into a bowl or strain them onto a plate depending on how you are serving them.


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