Cooking with Hidatsa Shield Figure Beans

One of the highlights of the past garden season was growing and harvesting a few varieties of heirloom beans.  I literally poured over seed catalogs and online reviews for weeks last winter, constantly changing my mind about which varieties to grow, agonizing, each time I had to narrow the list down.  The payoff for all of that time spent in deliberation came this fall, when I was finally able to start harvesting  the beans, and now that I have all these jars of beautiful heirloom beans, all that energy has been redirected into figuring out how I am going to use them.  

I chose to try cooking with the Hidatsa Shield Figure beans first, as they are the most intriguing to me.  They are a larger bean (easily double the size of the black beans I harvested this year), mostly white, with beautiful caramel-colored "shields" around the eye of the bean.  The variation of color on these beans are simply beautiful (the speckled ones are my most favorite!).
The Hidatsa Shield Figure beans cook up amazingly well.  After soaking while I was at work all day, they were cooked and in the soup in about an hour.  As expected, the cooked beans are huge!  (For comparison, they are nearly as tall as a quarter, and easily half as wide.)  There were very few "blow outs," with almost all of the beans maintaining their skins perfectly intact.  The skins are tender and the inside is creamy (like, seriously creamy).  And they taste amazing!

Not surprisingly, I didn't find many recipes that specifically called for Hidatsa Shield Figure Beans, but I figured that I could safely substitute them in any recipe that called for white or pinto beans.  I eventually settled on a Charro Beans Soup recipe (because it would also make a nice dent in the leftover Christmas ham in the fridge).  The beans worked perfectly in this recipe: they balanced out the heat and acidity, creating an incredibly rich and hearty soup (which will now have a permanent place in my winter soup rotation).
Final verdict on Hidatsa Shield Figure beans (if haven't already guessed): it's a keeper! And as an added bonus, the recipe for Charro Beans Soup!

Charro Beans Soup
2 cups dry beans (Hidatsa Shield Figure or other heirloom variety)
1/2 onion, finely chopped and divided
4 cloves of garlic minced and divided
1 bottle of beer (optional) + water to total 8 cups
1/2 cup bacon, cooked and crumbled
1-1 1/2 cup cooked ham (can also substitute chorizo for some or all of the ham) 
3-4 large tomatoes, chopped 
2 jalapeno or serrano peppers, finely chopped (de-seed for milder soup)

Combine dry beans and cooking liquid in a large pot and let soak overnight or around 8-10 hours.  After beans have soaked, add 1/4 cup chopped onion and 2 cloves of minced garlic to the pot, cover, and cook over medium high heat until beans are cooked (about an hour).  Remove from heat and set aside (do not drain). 

In a large skillet, cook the meat (if not already precooked).  Drain fat and add the remaining onions and garlic and the chopped pepper; cook for 2 minutes.  Add the chopped tomato and cook for an additional 8 minutes, or until the tomato has released its juices. 

Transfer the contents of the skillet into the pot with the beans and broth, and bring to a simmer for about 15 minutes to allow the flavors to develop.  

Recipe adapted from Mexico in My Kitchen

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