We eat a lot of beans, probably more than most people. Refried beans, red and white chili with beans (and often no meat), beans added to other recipes, and these slow cooked pinto beans. Pinto beans are one of the most basic (and inexpensive) things I cook but I really love them. The flavor is not very exciting really but very satisfying and I'm always happy when we're having them! If you haven't made them before, you really should. You can always jazz them up with hot sauce or whatever you want at the end if you think they're boring. At Sam's Club this weekend we bought a 10 pound bag of dried pinto beans and I put up a bunch of cut up ham in the freezer so I'll get to enjoy them pretty frequently :D
When you cook pinto beans like this, the most important thing is to include some kind of meat like ham, ham hocks or a ham bone. I've never bought ham hocks (don't think our store even has them) and never have big ham bones so that leaves me with using just ham. For each pound of dry beans I use half a pound of ham and cut it into big hunks. I feel that meat is optional in a lot of recipes, but not in these beans because most of the flavor comes from it. If you left out the ham, all you'd have is oniony salty beans which would be even plainer! The ham gets really tender and the flavor changes a bit as it cooks. I know it looks weird and dark in the picture but I promise the ham is good :) If you cook a ham, just stick some in the freezer to use for beans.
This is also the basic method for cooking any kind of dried beans, but only use the beans and water. Sometimes I cook garbanzos in the slow cooker for hummus or other beans to go in other recipes. In my opinion, using a slow cooker is really the only way to cook beans. No standing around stirring, no beans cooking to the bottom of the pot, nothing! It's so easy!
Without further ado...
Slow Cooker Pinto Beans
1 lb dried pinto beans
4 C water
4 to 8 oz ham, cut into chunks, or a ham hock
1 C diced onions (I had to use 2 T dried onions because it's all I had)
1/2 T salt
1/2 t pepper
Pour beans into 4 quart slow cooker. As you pour, look them over and pick out any weird looking ones or small rocks. Fill crock with a couple quarts of water, cover, and leave them to sit 8 hours or over night. In the morning, drain off the excess liquid and then rinse and drain them a couple of times. I don't bother using a strainer for this, just use the slow cooker's lid to keep the beans in the crock as you pour out the water.
Add the 4 C water to the beans along with the ham, diced onions, salt and pepper. Cover and let them cook on low for about 8 hours or on high about 4 hours, until beans are tender. The time will depend on your slow cooker. Great served with cornbread and salad.
Yield: 6 servings