By Mr. Everest
Cooked beans are a staple in our family. Whether they’re pinto or black beans, we cook up a pot of beans at least once a week. Today, the house smelled wonderful as the beans cooked in the slow cooker with garlic and onions.
For the past 3 years, we’ve gone plastic-free in the culinary arts so that means no canned food. Most cans have bisphenol A (BPA) in them which is an epoxy resin-like substance that is an endocrine disruptor and a chemical linked to cancer. Beans in a can are among the top BPA-laden canned foods out there. When we converted our kitchen over to a plastic-free one, canned beans were a favorite staple we had to rethink. But the Greek ancestry in me knew it wouldn’t mean we’d go without beans for long. My Dad always had a pot of lentils on the stove, so why not do the same with pinto and black beans?
Every few days I pull out the slow cooker, throw some beans in (say 4 cups-worth) add quadruple the amount of water, throw in a bay leaf from our friends’ tree, several cloves of garlic from our garden (whole cloves are fine), a few extra garlic skins, chopped onion, and about a teaspoon of sea salt. Each time I do it the recipe changes but this is a basic one that works. Put the cover on the slow cooker and let ‘er cook for about 18 hours or until your beans have reached their desired tenderness. No stirring is required. Just leave the slow cooker alone and enjoy the rest of your day.
We buy our beans in bulk, 25 lbs at a time, so they come to us in a big paper feed sack. We then store them in glass jars for easy access.
I tend to turn half of the cooked beans into refried beans (just mash ’em down as you fry them with a little more garlic and onion and add some cumin and liquid aminos for salt) and then make burritos or enchiladas that we can freeze for easy school lunches to reheat for the kids. We also make black bean soup with them or just a simple bean dip.
These beans are always better than anything I’ve eaten from a can, and they cost about a tenth of the price. But the real benefit of kicking canned food is the mindfulness of slow-cooking and making your staples from scratch. Cooked beans in a slow cooker are so simple, yet they require a few minutes of forethought and planning for the meals that your family will enjoy in the week ahead. Four cups of dried beans will result in about 8 cups of cooked beans, enough for a family of 4 to enjoy for a week in many different creations. As your home fills with the buttery and savory smell of cooking beans, enjoy the pleasure, as my Dad did, of slow-cooked food and the sweet time it takes for the flavors to blend together completely.