Saturday, January 14, 2012

Slow Cooker Pinto Beans

We enjoyed a lovely spiral sliced ham for New Years.  After we removed the majority of the ham, we froze the bone for a later use.  This week we used it to flavor beans.  I made pinto beans but this recipe is also good for black-eyed peas and other legumes.  You can serve these beans as a side to your favorite Mexican entree or as a main dish.  For a main dish, top with cheese (if not allergic) and serve with cornbread.  This is a great warm, comforting meal on a cold January day.  My recipe for cornbread will follow soon.

Slow Cooker Pinto Beans

6 c water for soaking
6 c water for cooking
ham bone or 4 slices of bacon
1 lb pinto beans
1 lg sweet onion
6 cloves garlic
1 t freshly ground black pepper

The night before, rinse beans and discard any obviously shriveled and/or discolored beans.  Place beans in slow cooker with 6 cups of water.  Put lid on slow cooker and soak the beans overnight.  Also the night before, boil the ham bone or bacon in remaining 6 cups of water for about 15 minutes and the meat on the bone has paled slightly in color.  Let ham broth cool.  Remove the ham bone and any fragment pieces.  Refrigerate ham broth overnight.

In the morning, drain soaking beans and re-rinse.  Return beans to slow cooker.  The fat in the ham broth will turn white and rise to the top, as it cools in the refrigerator overnight.  Skim the fat off the top of the refrigerated broth with a spoon and discard.  Pour skimmed broth over beans in slow cooker.  Peel onion and garlic leaving them whole and place in the beans.  Do not chop or slice the onion and garlic.  This allows you to remove them after cooking but still benefit from the flavor.  (I do sometimes use minced garlic since I always have it on hand and the pieces are so small.)  Add season salt and black pepper.  Cook beans on high for 8 hours.
Main dish – serves 4-6
Side dish – serves 10

In the past, I have tried cooking the ham bone in with the beans but the slow cooking method has a tendency to cause the bone to fall apart.  Then it is really hard to remove all of the fragments.  I have found cooking it separately to make a broth prevents this problem and allows me to remove the excess fat. 

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