Sunday, July 29, 2007

Bean Bonanza!

To start this day's post we have to delve into the primary costs of beans.
Around here we have many Amish dry goods and the like supposedly the most cost efficient stores. Most of the time all the prices are around normal ( i.e. baseline from the grocery store, seems a good benchmark ), or are drastically lower, yay. I began purchasing my bean mixes at the "country" store last year. I needed the beans as a cost limiting alternative for stocking up during the winter. Looking at the bean bag from the store I discover that the unit price of the bean mix is $ and the bag contains 1.99lb equaling $2.97. For months I have purchased this type of bean mix and have gleefully eaten it only placing some "meat" / ham base, instead of the required hock and other ingredients. once i found a stash of beans in my house i took a long look at what i was doing for daily food. All the beans were available from the local walmart at drastically reduced prices! Beans for the mix will range anywhere from $.50 per pound to the most expensive, usually large lima beans, at $1.25 per pound. This price difference seems to be only for the mixing and packaging of the beans in the mix. So, for a difference of at least $.24 per lb of beans I'll continue mixing my own. Besides its fun to feel all the beans up to your forearm and swish them around like a madman.

Yes, of course, an individual can live "solely" on pinto beans, however why not throw a mix together while you have the chance. Not only is it good for trading... Oh...look at the fancy colors. One could even take this recipe, layer the beans, enclose directions and give as a holiday present. to mix this recipe of beans together requires a massive bowl! I used a 5 gallon bucket from walmart. Beans will fill 1/2 of the bucket so be prepared. Again physics also prevails and all the lentils, split peas and the smaller beans go to the bottom of your mixing apparatus. When drawing from the bucket to fill your containers, make sure that you mix then draw from the bottom assuring that you have all the beans in a container. Not just the largest beans in the first container and the littlest beans in the last one.

Poor man’s meat?
At one time beans were called “poor man’s meat,” but the
sweeping interest in Mexican and Mediterranean food in
this country has taught us that beans are everybody’s food.

Folks on limited budgets should know that they can stretch their food pennies with a tasty, nutritious combination of pinto beans and corn. Such a diet is not the marginal bill of fare you might imagine, either. Rather, as generations of poor people throughout Mexico and the southwestern United States have proven, it can supply a fair amount of the body's daily requirements of vitamins and minerals and a goodly portion of the necessary proteins.

Neither beans nor corn alone, of course, is such a complete food . . . chiefly because neither is a complete protein. Beans, however, contain all the essential amino acids but one (methionine) . . . which just happens to be the amino acid that corn does have. Together, a mixture of two parts corn and one part beans is almost equal in protein quality to fresh milk. Add some fruits and vegetables to supply the vitamins and minerals that beans and corn lack and top with some real milk . . . and you've got a fairly well-balanced diet that is both tasty and very economical. The further addition of fresh wheat germ and an occasional egg should round this menu off a lot closer to nutritionally perfect than the "average" American diet without raising the total cost too many pennies.

Both beans and corn can be dried and kept for long periods of time with very little loss of flavor or nutritional value. Drying is a handy method of preserving the foods because the process reduces 100 pounds of either to only about 10 pounds

After the beans have matured and dried on the vine they should be shelled, placed on the drying racks and heated to 165-180° F. for 10 to 15 minutes. This will destroy any insect eggs in the beans. If you don't want to build trays, spread the beans on a flat baking pan and put them in the oven. The beans are dry enough when they no longer stick together after you squeeze a few in your hand, or when a single bean can be pressed without moisture coming to the surface. Remove the beans from heat and let them cool.

Dried sweet corn can be used in many delightful and economical soups, breads, casseroles and stews. Select freshly gathered ears in the milk stage, ready for table use. Blanch the corn by wrapping the ears in a piece of cheesecloth or placing them in a wire basket or similar porous container, and plunging them into boiling water for 8-12 minutes to set the milk. Blanching gives the corn a thorough cleaning, removes objectionable flavors and odors, kills bacteria and softens and loosens the fiber to allow quicker and more uniform evaporation of moisture during drying. Do not blanch longer than the prescribed time or color will be lost, the starch will partially cook to a paste and—worst of all—some of the valuable nutrients will dissolve out. After blanching, drain the corn well and slice off the rows of kernels with a sharp knife. Spread the corn one layer deep on a drying rack or put it in a pan in a 130° F. oven. Gradually raise the temperature to 140° F. while stirring frequently. When the corn is hard and semi-transparent remove it from the trays and let it cool.

When the dry beans and corn have cooled, place them in milk cartons (the wax coating makes these cartons great for storage) or some other light and insect-proof boxes, bags or cans. The containers should not be completely air-tight since the corn and beans must be allowed to "breathe" as they continue to dry in the cans.

Both beans and corn should be conditioned daily for the first 10-14 days after drying. Keep the containers open and covered only with clean, dry cloth during this time, and stir the dried products or pour them from container to container regularly. When no change in moisture content has been observed for several days, the food is ready for permanent storage.

After conditioning, the dried corn and beans may be sealed in the containers and stored for long periods of time if kept warm, dry, well-ventilated and protected from insects and rodents. Check the boxes, cans and/or bags from time to time and—if any dampness is found—remove the contents, dry them in a warm oven and return the corn and beans to the containers.

Approximately three to five cups of water must be added to a recipe for every cup of dried corn or beans. Before using the dried corn, cover it with water and soak the kernels until they are swollen. Add enough water to cover the swelled kernels (if necessary), put in a bit of honey or sugar and bring the corn to a boil. Then turn the heat down and cook the corn slowly until it's almost tender. Salt, pepper and butter to taste and finish cooking. Dried corn may also be run through a food chopper and added to soups at the same time that onions and carrots are dropped into the boiling water.

Holiday Bean Soup Mix
1 pound dried black beans
1 pound dried red beans
1 pound dried kidney beans
1 pound dried navy beans
1 pound dried great northern beans
1 pound dried baby lima beans
1 pound dried large lima beans
1 pound dried pinto beans
1 pound dried green split peas
1 pound dried yellow split peas
1 pound dried black-eyed peas
1 pound dried green lentils
1 pound dried brown lentils

Combine beans in a very large bowl. Pour two cups of bean mix into pretty jars ( 16-oz.) jars holds two cups of bean mix. Give with the following recipe for holiday bean soup.

You could also layer the beans in the jar for prettier effect. Just put a little of each of the beans in until you fill it to the top.

Attach To Jar:
Holiday Bean Soup

Beans from jar
1 smoked ham hock
2 cans ( 14.5 oz each ) stewed tomatoes
1 medium onion chopped
1 clove garlic minced
1 bay leaf
6 cups water
1/4 cup fresh parsley
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin seed

Cover beans with water and soak overnight. Drain beans and place in a stockpot. Add ham hoc, tomatoes, onion, garlic, bay leaf and 6 cups of water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, cover & simmer 1 hour or until beans are tender. Remove bay leaf before serving.
Serve warm. Makes 11 cups of soup.

Pinto beans can be prepared in a variety of mouth-watering ways. They should always be cooked a long time at a low temperature (that's the secret of making them tasty). An earthenware pot is best for this cooking method but a metal kettle can also be used with success.

2 cups beans
10 cups water (approx.)
4 tablespoons bacon fat or 1 cup diced salt pork
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon chili powder salt to taste

Pick rocks, seed or bad beans from the pintos. Wash and cover with water and let the beans soak overnight. If the pintos haven't been soaked, put them over heat, bring to a boil, cover, turn off heat and let the beans sit for one hour before continuing with the cooking process. Add sugar and garlic to the pintos, place them over heat, cover and simmer. Throw in some bacon fat or a chunk of salt pork after the beans have cooked at least a half hour and add enough boiling water during cooking to keep the pintos covered. Depending on altitude and water softness, the total cooking time will be three to six hours. Add paprika and chili powder when the pintos are about half done and, after they've become tender, add salt and cook 15 to 20 minutes or until the seasoning has cooked into the beans and the juice has slightly thickened.

2 cups mashed beans
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons cornmeal
1 tablespoon flour
1 teaspoon chili powder

Mash beans with a fork and add cornmeal, salt, flour and chili powder. Stir well. Add the chopped onion and mix until well blended. If the mixture is too dry, thin it with bean juice or a small amount of water. Heat a skillet and grease it with bacon drippings. When the pan is hot, drop in the bean mixture by the spoonful and mash each cake flat with a spoon. Brown and serve.

Melt about three teaspoons of bacon fat for each cup of leftover beans (the fat keeps the beans from losing their flavor). Add a little flour and some chopped onions or hot chili peppers to the pintos and spoon them into the hot grease. Grated cheese may be melted into the beans just before they're taken off the fire. Serve piping hot.

2 cups yellow cornmeal
1 cup flour
3 tablespoons bacon drippings
2 eggs
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups milk
3 teaspoons baking powder

Measure cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into a bowl and stir. Add milk, mix well, add eggs and beat thoroughly. Stir in the bacon drippings and beat again until well blended. Melt two tablespoons of fat in a heated cast iron skillet, pour the batter into the hot pan and place it in a 400° F. oven. Cook about 40 minutes, or until the cornbread is lightly browned on top. If thinner, crustier bread is desired, divide the batter into two skillets and bake it about 25 minutes.

No comments: