Most of their cattle died and the crops couldn't grow in the rocky soil that had mostly turned to dust in the absence of rain. My great- great grandfather found work where he could, but they were hanging on by their toenails. What kept them from starving was the lowly regarded pinto bean. Cheap to buy and easy to store, but most of all nutritious and filling, sometimes beans and tortillas were all they had to eat for weeks at a time.
In later years when their perseverance and hard work brought them a measure of affluence, she never discarded her ollas, and in fact never discarded frijoles from their diet, so thankful was she for how they had sustained her family in the lean times. She always said as long as she had a bean in the pot, she considered herself a wealthy woman. Since she was my grandmother's grandmother, she died long before I was born, but I've heard many stories of her strength and determination. I have her ollas in a prominent place in our family room, to remind us of where true wealth is found.
1 pound dry pinto beans (Some folks use black beans)
12 cups water, divided
6 ounces salt pork, sliced
2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes
1 cup chopped onion
4 to 6 whole fresh serrano peppers or 2 to 3 jalapeño peppers
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped cilantro (loosely packed)
Makes 8 to 10 Servings
Sort and rinse beans. Place in a large pot; add 6 cups water. Soak overnight or for at least 6 hours in the refrigerator.
Drain beans. Add 6 cups fresh water and the salt pork. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour. Then add tomatoes, onion, peppers, garlic and salt. Cook until tender, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Add water occasionally to keep the beans soupy.
Adjust salt if needed. Add cilantro at serving time. Hold on low heat. Remove whole peppers and use as a garnish, or break one in two and leave in the pot if you want spice.
*Note- Some people prefer to use a quick boil method instead of soaking the beans overnight. That will also render beans to be soft, but the overnight soaking also helps negate one of the more potent side effects of beans; namely gas.
If you want a heartier dish, these are Frijoles Charros, or Cowboy Beans, that were often eaten by the cowboys when they worked the open range.
- 1 pound of beans
- 2 cloves of peeled garlic
- 1 white onion (1/2 whole, 1/2 chopped)
- 2 chopped tomatoes
- 3 tablespoons of chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 teaspoon of powdered chicken broth
- 1 sliced serrano or jalapeno pepper
- 5 ounces of bacon cut into small pieces
- 5 ounces of chorizo sausage (Mexican sausage) (If you can't get chorizo, any Italian sausage will do)
- 5 ounces of pork rinds in small pieces (optional)
- Leave a pot of beans covered in water overnight.
- The following day replace the water - adding a sufficient amount to begin cooking.
- As the water reaches its boiling point, add the ½ onion and garlic cloves.
- Cook until done and tender, about an hour and a half to two and a half hours, then add salt according to taste.
- In a frying pan with a small amount of cooking oil, fry the bacon and chorizo for about 4 minutes.
- Add the chopped onion, the chili pepper, and tomato and continue to fry.
- Add the fried ingredients to the pot of beans.
- Once the mixture is brought to boil, add the cilantro, pork rinds and sausages. Season with salt and powdered chicken broth.