Pinto beans. Soup beans. Bean soup. There are many names for it. I grew up with it. In the Appalachian mountains, it was sometimes all a family had, along with a hot iron skillet full of fresh baked cornbread. And sometimes some potatoes, either boiled down low with butter or lard, or fried with onions. Ah, it makes my mouth water.
However, when I was a child, every time I saw it I couldn’t help but think, “Beans? Again?” Of course, you dared not speak that out loud! By God’s good graces, Mom would say, We should be thankful for it because some people don’t even have that, and would love to have it! I knew that, really.
I swore THEN that once I grew up, I would never cook such a thing, no sir, not me. That was “poor people food”, I thought foolishly. And now, I find myself looking for an occasion to cook it! As a matter of fact, I just served a huge pot to my family that gobbled it up, along with cornbread and bits of meat left over schnitzel from last night.
You can tell from the ring in the bean pot and half of the bread being gone that I didn’t get pictures until after supper 🙂 But that’s okay. It’s a simple meal that’s easy to fix (once you learn how to cook it) and it keeps good as leftovers too. Have you ever had a mug of cold cornbread with milk? Oh my goodness, but that is simply DIVINE! It’s one of my favorite things, and was even back in those days when I thought it was just awful to have to have beans and corn bread.
So how do you fix them? Well, it’s not as hard as you think. Now, I’ve heard people talk about soaking dried beans overnight and then pouring the water off, but I’ve never done that. So, you might hear somebody say that’s how it has to be done, but I’m here to tell you, and my Mother will tell you too, we’ve never done it that way and never had a bad outcome.
First, you take your dried beans… I’ve found that a one pound package usually feeds a family of 4+, usually with leftovers. I always put mine into a colander and wash them real good. Even though they’re packaged and on a store shelf, they’ll still be dirty, I don’t care who tells you different. You can find this to be true yourself if you put them in a bowl to hold the water and squeeze them through your fingers a time or two under the water. In some cases, it will nearly turn black. Another reason you want to wash them and look through them is that there may be little rocks or pebbles, clumps of dirt and bad beans that you need to pick out. Nobody wants to find a rock in their soup! I mean, I’ve heard of stone soup, but… 🙂
Once you’ve rinsed them and made sure they’re free of debris, you put them in a big pot, about the size you’d make spaghetti in, and fill it full of water. Bring that to a rolling boil and let it boil like that for about 10 minutes. You can add your fat at this time, either lard, meat scraps, butter…whatever you’d like. Next, turn your heat down to about medium, or maybe a little less, put a lid on it and let it boil. BUT…you have to keep an eye on it! You’ll need to add water as it cooks down, every half hour or so, and keep adding water until the beans are done, which should be anywhere from 2-5 hours. It depends on how mushy you want them and how thick you want the soup to be, and also the altitude plays a part in it as well.
And that’s about it. I usually add some onion to the pot about a half hour before they’re done, which adds an excellent flavor, but to be honest, you can over-season beans really easily. I use to try to follow directions for bean soups that had all kinds of different seasonings thrown in, but my family never liked them near as much. Yours might, it’s certainly something you can play around with. It’s a really cheap meal to make, especially if you know where to shop. Some people add things like oregano, beef broth, soul seasoning, curry or cumin…I’ve seen recipes with all kinds of stuff in the ingredient list. But for us, beans, fat, salt and onion are the best way to go about it 🙂
So, I guess that’s it for this post, guys, thanks for reading along. If you make a pot of beans like this, be sure to stop in and let me know how they came out 🙂