Saturday, February 20, 2010

Beans, Beans, Beans - Weekly Email


More mixed weather, but we sure do need that rain. When the sun does comes out, the air and sky are so clear it is a wonder. It definitely feels like spring is around the corner (although maybe it is just the unseasonably warm weather when it isn't raining). Over these next couple of weeks, we might start seeing some early spring vegetables and fruit. Early asparagus, rhubarb, that sort of thing. Isn't California grand?

Of course, that means I need to finish work on my winter canning, before spring is in full bloom and I'm overwhelmed.

Winter vegetables are still abundant and beautiful in the markets, especially the multi-hued carrots that are just gorgeous to look at. I've been blogging about the February Can Jam, which is dedicated to carrots, all week. The canners out there have come out with all sorts of interesting ideas for using carrots in butters, chutneys, slaws, jams and a variety of pickles. So many different textures and flavors are available, it is truly amazing. And to think of all the possible dishes these canned goods would go with. Imagine filleting open a pork loin, slathering it with carrot-apple-chipotle butter, rolling it back up and roasting it. Sweet, earthy, smoky and pork ... wow.

Check out some of the carrot possibilities by scrolling down on the PreserveNation blog:

Not all canning is flashy like that, however. Winter is actually a good time to store up some convenience foods, so that you can enjoy the spring and summer without spending all day over the stove. Which brings me to this weeks topic: beans. Yes, beans.

Beans may not sound very exciting, but they can be eaten with any meal and are incredibly versatile, used in virtually every culture. They're also a nutritional powerhouse, full of protein, fiber, potassium, folate and also low in fat. Dried, they are very, very inexpensive and easily stored. The problem is that dried beans can take a long time to cook, which means when you're hurried, you'll rush right past them. Can those beans, and they are ready to eat simply by popping off the lid.

Beans with rice provide a fundamental nutritional base on any table. Pickles and relishes make a nice accompaniment to beans. I add them to soups, stews and, of course, chilis. Cold and rinsed, they go well in salads. Cold and pureed, a dip is a fine thing. One of my favorite beans to can is the garbanzo. That way, I'm only 10 minutes away from some freshly made hummus. The possibilities are endless, and when the beans are so easy to use, you'll get more use out of them.

The only problem, of course, is that you'll need a pressure canner.

The procedure is simple. Clean the beans (small stones often sneak through, especially when you buy in bulk), soak the beans overnight, boil for only 30 minutes, and then pressure can (with or without salt). You only have to boil the beans for 30 minutes because they will finish cooking in the pressure canner. Detailed instructions can be found here:

Couldn't be simpler. You can do all sorts of beans for canning. My favorites are pinto, black, kidney and garbanzo. But use whatever you like. I may try canning some tuscan-style white beans this year.

Now, normally, I advocate using farmers markets produce. However, the heirloom beans now available (love you, Rancho Gordo) are just too expensive for canning. Bulk beans, especially in ethnic markets, are much more economical.

Well, that is all for this week. I'll be at the Studio City farmers market this Sunday, not Hollywood. If you have any questions, feel free to email me at:

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