Seemingly endless loops of snowy commutes, bitter cold temperatures, and all around winter blahs call for real comfort food. And I'm not talking about the quick and easy kind; I'm talking about the homegrown, slow-cooked, hearty goodness that is cooking up a pot of dried beans and transforming them into an amazing soup or a spicy Mexican dinner. Bam. Snowy commute: forgotten.
Yes, it's times like these that make me incredibly happy that I planted Cherokee Trail of Tears Beans last summer.
These beans could not have been easier to grow: I popped them into the ground as a part of my Three Sisters Planting and let them grow and do their thing all season long without any fuss. Along the way, I enjoyed lovely lavender blossoms, cute little green beans that plumped up and then turned pinkish purple as they ripened, and when the bean pods had turned dark purple and brittle, I was left with a couple pints of smooth and shiny black beans (not quite enough beans for as many winter meals as I had hoped for, but I did get enough to ration out a good number of recipes).
It was a no-brainer to set aside enough beans to double the planting for this year's repeat appearance (and that was before I had even started cooking with them!).
So let's get to it and talk cooking with Cherokee Trail of Tears beans.
These are beans that need a good soaking (I should have guessed it, based on the recommendation to soak the beans before planting) and a lot of cooking time. Give them 10 or 12 hours to soak, and then make sure there is a good three inches of water covering the beans when you start to cook them. I find that it takes about 2 hours of simmering to get beautiful, soft and tender black beans, but trust me: it is sooo worth the wait!
The beans plump up quite nicely when cooked and have a great texture. They taste way better than any canned or commercial dried beans I've ever cooked with, and Cherokee Trail of Tears beans have substituted perfectly for a number of my favorite black bean recipes: black bean quesadillas, spicy black bean burgers, and a mini batch of Cuban black bean soup. But by far, my favorite way of using these beans has been to pop them into the food processor with a little bit of the cooking liquid before adding them to a hot pan of super finely minced onion, garlic, jalapeno, ground cumin, ground cayenne pepper, and chili powder for some killer refried beans. Bam. Comfort food at its best: homegrown, slow-cooked, hearty, and most importantly, delicious.
Labels: beans, heirloom, recipes, Three Sisters