"The ethical decision is always the fearsome decision. When something matters enough that we are afraid of the consequences–afraid that even the honorable choice could result in harm or loss or sorrow–that’s when ethics are involved."
Henry W. Bloch, The Importance of Ethics

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Lose the Can Opener: Black Beans

When I started this homemade black bean project I assumed that I could not flavor my beans enough to taste as good as the canned beans that I usually buy. I found that the fresh black beans do not actually need much flavoring because the beans have a fresh flavor that I didn't even know existed! The canned beans rely on large amounts of salt and other seasonings to make up for the lack of freshness.

To make your own homemade black beans:

    1 C dried black beans
    1 onion, roughly chopped
    2 cloves of garlic, chopped
    1 tsp cumin
    1 tsp ground sage (to help reduce gassiness caused by beans)
    1 bay leaf
    1 tsp apple cider vinegar
    salt and pepper to taste

  1. Soak one cup of dried beans overnight in a large container with plenty of water covering the beans.
  2. Drain the beans and wash them well.
  3. Put the beans in a pot with the onion and 2 cups of fresh water. Bring to a boil and lower the heat to simmer. Simmer for 30 minutes. (Add more boiling water as necessary).
  4. Add the garlic, cumin, sage, and bay leaf, and continue simmering for another half hour.
  5. Test the beans for tenderness, some should have cracked, but they should not be mushy.
  6. Add the vinegar at the end. Salt and pepper to taste.

Notes: my soaking and cooking times are based on the super-fresh beans I purchased at the farmer's market, beans purchased in bulk at the grocery store will need to cook for substantially longer (Total simmering time may be as long as 2.5 hours)! It is important to keep a close watch on your beans!

Black beans are a staple at our house. My go-to lunch often consists of canned Bush's Best Black Beans on a tortilla with cheddar cheese and, if I'm lucky, hot sauce from my favorite Mexican restaurant in Colorado Springs.

When we were at the farmers market a couple of weeks ago we stumbled on fresh dried black beans, and I knew that this had the potential to be my first shift toward a more sustainable product. As far as I can tell, the Bush's company is ethical in its treatment to laborers, selecting their beans from farms around the United States, so I will confess this may not be the major change I am hoping for in my consumer practices, but it's moving toward something like it.

At the very least making your own black beans has some environmental benefits: eating local produce saves energy resources used to transport the products, this applies to the black beans as well as the onions and herbs used to flavor them. Also-- fresh just seems healthier than canned.

After making the homemade black beans, we decided to go full out and make homemade tortillas and mexican style rice to go with them! The results were AMAZING.

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