Black beans have become one of my most favorite beans in the last 10 years or probably more. I find them to have a great amount of flavor, although that has a lot to do with how the beans are cooked. But maybe it is because it is not the type of beans we regularly ate at my house while growing up.
Today we will learn
What are beans?
I believe you know what beans are. Please, do not think for a minute that I am trying to insult your intelligence. I am trying to infer with this question the similar issues many languages have with their dialects and regions and how people in those regions use the same words and grant them a slightly different meaning.
Take, for instance, the Spanish word for the bean. Ok, that in itself is a loaded statement since the translation could be 5 different words off the top of my head. I grew up with the word HABICHUELA (aah-bee-chew-eh-lah). Habichuela is the same word for the long green beans and the contents of the pods, the bean itself. Now, in Mexico, Frijoles (free-hole-less, I know this is NOT how to spell a pronunciation, but if you put all those words together, you will be pronouncing frijoles like a pro) is the name they use for all beans. Growing up, every time something was pointed out as a frijol, it was a much smaller bean or habichuela. These beans would also have an even harder texture than their larger counterpart, which in turn made me dislike them just as much.
Habichuela refers to the pod with the beans inside. In Spain, the beans inside the pods are called Judias (jews) or habas. Somewhere along the way, an understanding came to pass in the island that out of the habichuela pods you get a certain color bean, therefore the beans themselves acquired the name of habichuela to be proceeded by the color of the bean itself. Hence, habichuelas rojas, habichuelas blancas, etc. Habas in Puerto Rico, refer to a larger bean like a Lima Bean. Frijoles in Puerto Rico are Fijoles de Carita (face beans) or Bizcos (cross-eye) for Black-Eye Peas, and frijoles negros for Black Beans.
Beans we eat in Puerto Rico
In Puerto Rico, we love our beans. Rice without beans cannot be. The native Taino used to grow long green beans and eat them raw. When the Spaniards came, they brought with them garbanzo (Chickpeas) and lentils. The African slaves brought with them the black-eye peas. Today's way we cook beans is the product of the Taino-African collaboration of learning from each other and intermingling their techniques. This collaboration has created a unique, indistinguishable flavor that once tasted, you know you are eating Puerto Rican food.
Today, the most regular bean eaten would be red beans. Red beans come in small and large sizes with a few mid-range seeds in between. It is the red kidney bean, that many Puerto Ricans enjoy. Pink and pinto beans are at a close second, to be followed with garbanzos, navy beans, and lima beans. But one popular kind of them is not a bean but a pea, Gandul, or pigeon pea. This pea is seasonal for winter, so it is the favorite for all holiday celebration cooking. With all-year-round accessibility, the pigeon pea can be enjoyed at any time.
The black bean was not as popular, at least not in my immediate family. I remember asking my mom how come we didn't eat them, and she mentioned something along the lines of she didn't like them too much, and you must know how to cook them. Those words rang daunting, "You must know how to cook them," are quite intimidating but challenging. Because then I wanted to eat them that much more. Needless to say, when I did, I fell in love with the little beans.
How to cook black beans?
Measure out the beans and place them on a sheet pan. Pick over beans, look for any shriveled beans or foreign particles, and discard. Rinse in water twice. Place beans in a large enough container; for example, if you make one cup of beans, use a 4 quart (4 cups) container with a lid, soak overnight with enough water to cover generously.
Next Day, Cooking Day
Drain beans. Rinse the beans in water at least twice, place in a kettle, with 1 quart of water. Bring rapidly to a boil. Reduce heat to moderate, cover, and cook for about 45 minutes.
In a skillet, over low heat, heat ⅔ cups of olive oil, sweet chili peppers, and adobo for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add to skillet 1 drained cup of the boiled black beans and mash thoroughly with the rest of the ingredients in the skillet. Add this mixture to the kettle, together with salt, pepper, oregano, cumin, and bay leaves. The mashed beans will help thicken the liquid of the beans. Cover, and boil for 1 hour at moderate heat, checking for liquid content through cooking.
Add your optional dry wine and vinegar and cook over low heat, uncovered, and cook until sauce thickens to taste. Serve individually in cup bowls or soup plates and sprinkle with chopped onions
Other recipes you might like:
Puerto Rican Black Beans. Frijoles Negros
- 1 cup dried black beans frijoles negros
- 1 quart of water
- 2 tablespoons adobo
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- ½ yellow onion peeled and small diced
- 4 teaspoons of salt
- ¼ teaspoon whole dried oregano crushed
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon of sofrito
- 2 bay leaves
- ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ cup chopped onions
- Drain beans. Rinse the beans in water at least twice, place in a kettle, with 1 quart of water. Bring rapidly to a boil. Reduce heat to moderate, cover, and cook for about 45 minutes.
- In a skillet, over low heat, heat ⅔ cups of olive oil, onions, garlic, adobo, sofrito, salt, pepper, oregano, and cumin for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add to skillet, 1 drained cup of the boiled black beans, and mash thoroughly with the rest of the ingredients in the skillet.
- Add this mixture to the kettle, together with salt, pepper, oregano, cumin, and bay leaves.
- Cover, and boil for 1 hour at moderate heat, checking for liquid content through cooking.
- Add dry wine and vinegar and cook over low heat, uncovered, and cook until sauce thickens to taste.
- Serve individually in cup bowls or soup plates and sprinkle with chopped onions
- Plan ahead. The hydration process takes at least eight hours. There are methods of cooking dry beans for consumption the same day without soaking, but even that makes the process long.
- Consider hydrating or softening a batch of beans, freezing them, and using them later.
- Remove any foreign particles. Sometimes small pebbles or pieces of wood may have infiltrated during packaging. Since black beans are dark, make sure the beans have been well sorted before cooking. Use a sheet pan or plate, something lighter than the beans, to see them clearly. Softly move the beans about and remove any undesired beans or particles with your finger. Not always will you find pebbles or foreign objects, but this is a crucial step to avoid finding these things in your food while having dinner.