Wednesday 8 August 2012

Slow Cooker Pinto Beans With Ham, and How to Can Them

Pinto beans are beautiful when dried, but cooked...not so much.  It takes a better photographer than I am to make a plate of pinto beans and rice look pretty!  It's a shame, really, because they make an excellent meal: delicious, nutritious, and cheap.  

I didn't always like pinto beans.  Until I was in my middle thirties, I'd never had them other than from a tin and I disliked them intensely.  Up until that time, Mexican food had no part in my diet so I was unfamiliar with the comforting flavour of refried beans or even, for that matter, with the idea that you could or should spice bean dishes at all.  

Of course I didn't like them!  Who would like a bowl of unseasoned, under cooked, woody textured, beige, beans from a can?

When I did eventually learn to cook pinto beans properly, the flavour was a revelation to me.  I discovered that a plate of beans and rice can, indeed, be a wonderful thing.

I always cook pinto beans in my slow cooker.  I soak them, then cook them until they're very tender.  I find the texture comforting.  Some of you may prefer a firmer bean, though, so I've added some alternate cooking instructions at the bottom of the page.

Last time I cooked them, I paired my pinto beans with ham.  

I'd cooked a toupee ham for dinner earlier in the week, and used the leftovers in the cooker with my beans. I cooked a lot of beans (I often do), so I canned the extras for use on days when I'm too rushed to fuss with dinner. 

I've included instructions for both cooking and canning the beans here.  

Please note that while I am an enthusiastic home canner, I'm not an authority on the subject.  If you're canning pinto beans (or anything else), purchase a reputable canning guide book (Putting Food By and the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving are both very good).  Review their instructions on safe canning practices, then follow them to the letter.  Canning is no place for approximation or improvisation.  Food safety is a science and safe practice is, quite literally, a matter of life and death.

You are unlikely to find canning instructions specifically for beans and ham.  When canning any food that contains more than one ingredient follow the processing instructions for the ingredient that requires the longest processing time, at the highest pressure.

To make Slow Cooker Pinto Beans with Ham, I used:
  • 2 pounds of dried pinto beans
  • 2 pounds of cubed, cooked ham
  • Reserved water from simmering the ham (You can use stock instead if you prefer)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • Salt and pepper to taste
I covered the dried beans with cold water and left them to soak overnight.  

(Use a big bowl.  They expanded right over the top of  my 8-cup measuring cup, spilling bean soaking water all over my counter.)

I put the soaked beans in my slow cooker, together with my cubed ham.

I sprinkled the cumin over top of the beans and ham and then stirred them all together.  

Once they were stirred together, I added enough of the ham cooking water to just cover the top of the mixture.  

I put the lid on the slow cooker and cooked the beans on "low" for about 4 hours, until they were as tender as I wanted them to be.  You can adjust the cooking time to suit your own preference.

When they were cooked, I lifted enough beans and ham out for our supper and seasoned that lot separately, adding in salt, black pepper, and chili powder.  I served the seasoned beans over brown rice, and topped them with fresh salsa.

I cooled the rest of the beans, in their cooking liquid, before refrigerating them for use the following day.

When I was ready to can the leftover beans, I put them in the oven to reheat.  

While the beans were reheating, I sterilized some jars, prepared jar lids according to the manufacturer's directions, and heated some water in my pressure canner.  I also brought a quart of vegetable broth to a boil, to supplement the bean cooking liquid when filling the jars.

When the beans were hot, I ladled them into pint jars, filling them about 3/4 full, 

and then added in a mixture of stock and the reserved bean cooking liquid, leaving an inch headroom in each jar.  

I added 1/2 teaspoon of pickling salt to each pint jar, wiped the jar edges, and then screwed the lids on finger tight.

I processed my beans at 10 pounds pressure for 75 minutes.  

Because I'd already cooked them, my beans didn't expand much in the jars.  Next time, I'll fill the jars a little fuller.

Beans that have been cooked in the slow cooker and then cooked again in the canner will have a very soft texture that makes them perfect for making refried beans.  If you prefer a firmer textured bean, skip the slow cooker step and cook your beans entirely in the jar.

To do this, drain the beans from their soaking water and fill your prepared jars 3/4 full with soaked, uncooked beans.  

Top up the jars with either boiling water or stock, leaving in 1 inch of head room.  

Add 1/4 teaspoon of cumin and 1/2 teaspoon pickling salt to each jar.  

Process at 10 pounds pressure for 75 minutes.
This recipe is linked to Hearth and Soul Blog Hop hosted by The 21st Century HousewifePremeditated LeftoversZesty South Indian KitchenSavoring TodayPenniless Parenting, and Elsa Cooks

Hearth & Soul Hop


Annie at Haphazard Homestead said...

I love all kinds of dried beans. I don't think I've found one yet that I don't like. I've taken to canning them, too. They are easy to cook, but I have a bad habit of burning them because they are so easy (I walk away to do something else then forget them). Canning them is a sure-fire way for me to avoid burning them. And they are convenient, too.

Aunt B said...

lol Annie! I've burned my share of them over the years too! If I'm not canning them, the slow cooker seems to help me avoid scorching the pot. The temperature's low enough and the cooking environment moist enough to help reduce the risk.

chow and chatter said...

love meals like this eat it a lot and great idea to can it

Aunt B said...

Me too Rebecca. Beans are a big favourite at our house. Thanks for stopping by the check out the recipe.

Anonymous said...

I'm making this some time this week! Thanks Aunt B.... Cheers Mr.CBB

Aunt B said...

Thanks Mr. CBB. I'm glad to know you're giving them a try.

Elsa said...

Your recipe looks delicious! We really need to incorporate more beans into our diet. Not only are they healthy and delicious, but they are definitely budget friendly.

Aunt B said...

Thank you Elsa. :) I agree that beans have an important place in our diet. At my house they go a long way towards helping our budget stretch to accommodate our needs. It's wonderful that such an affordable food is so tasty too.