When I left our first class tasked with cooking beans from scratch, I knew exactly which beans I would turn to. Black beans. If pinto beans are the golden maned lion of the bean family — flashy, iconic, populist — then black beans are the bengal tiger — lean, stealthy, and powerful. Questionable metaphors aside, I was thrilled to cook one of my favorite foods, and stop relying on those pesky canned beans.
As I collected my dried beans from the bulk aisle, the woman next to me was kind enough to recommend a recipe. She implored me to use a slow cooker, or Crock Pot, to cook my beans, rather than fuss with them on the stove. This would allow me to conveniently cook them over a long period of time. She also reminded me not to salt them. It turns out that black beans can’t be salted before they are cooked, or they won’t cook at all.
Inspired by the words of this prophetic lady in the bulk aisle. I hurried home to my beloved Crock Pot. But before I could start slow cooking away, I had to let the beans soak overnight in cold water. The next morning I was amazed to find that the beans had just about doubled in size after drinking up all that water. I added them, with onions, garlic, cumin, and coriander, to the slow cooker. I set the cooker to high to get them up to temperature and then switched it down to low for the long haul.
Six and a half hours later, I opened my crockpot to find cooked beans. It was indeed a beautiful moment. I added a few tablespoons of brown sugar, a little lemon juice, worcestershire sauce, a dash of cayenne, and finally, salt, to my creation. At this point my beans were highly aromatic and flavorful. My family ate them for dinner.
Was it another triumph by man over the legume? Or was it man and vegetable working in beautiful harmony? It’s really hard to say. All we know for sure is, I made some pretty good black beans.