I could have titled this post simply: “How to Cook Beans” because, with a few exceptions, there isn’t much difference from one dried bean to the next in terms of cooking.
You soak (or not — hence the exceptions), simmer, and voila! Cooked beans.
What else is simmered along with the beans is up to you…and the bean.
Calypso beans are either black and white, or red and white. Don’t get too attached to the striking contrast, because it fades dramatically with cooking.
Calypso beans hold their shape if you don’t cook them to death. That said, I’ve found they need about two hours, even though I’ve see cooking instructions calling for as little as an hour. It probably depends on how fresh they are (dried beans have a “freshness” but it’s difficult to gauge, because there isn’t a “freshness” date on the package.)
They taste similar to the Italian white cannellini bean, only a little nutty, if a bean can be nutty.
(Technically a bean can be nutty. Take the peanut, for example. The peanut isn’t really a nut at all, it’s a bean — or legume if we want to get fancy with our nomenclature.)
Regardless of what we call it, the dried beans can be soaked overnight, or softened with the quick soak method:
- Cover beans with 1-inch of water
- Bring to a boil, then turn the heat off
- Cover and soak 1-hour
- Rinse in cool water, drain, and proceed with recipe
While the beans are soaking, prep all your other ingredients. I’m using an onion and garlic, and of course, I need some kind of fat to saute those aromatics in — bacon fat — which hopefully doesn’t come as a big shock to anyone.
It’s a well documented fact that bacon and beans are the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers of the culinary world (you think I just make this stuff up, don’t you?)
I chop the bacon (or in this case, thin-sliced, cured and smoked pork loin — Irish Bacon (Rashers) — from a local pork producer) and slowly render out the fat over medium heat.
You can reserve the fried bits to sprinkle on top of your finished dish, if you don’t eat them all waiting for the beans to cook — not that you would do that.
Since these Calypso beans taste like cannellini beans, I add Italian Herb Mix from Penzey’s Spice Co.
A quick two hours later, the beans are tender and ready for salt and pepper.
I don’t season my beans until the end. Most chefs don’t, but I read somewhere that salting the beans in the beginning won’t make the beans tough. Old habits die hard, so I still wait until the end to season the beans.
Taste the beans after 1-1/2 hours. That might be all they need. If some are soft but some are still too toothy, cook another half hour. Now you can season your beans with salt and pepper. You can also throw in some fresh herbs, if you’re so inclined.
And that’s it.
But now what do you do? You can serve a bowl of beans for dinner, maybe with a slice of hot buttered cornbread, or served them as a side.
You can cool them and use in salads. These beans go particularly well with canned tuna.
If you save the cooking liquid, you can even turn them into a soup by pureeing the beans with just enough of the cooking liquid to get the consistency of a creamy soup (but without the cream, of course, unless you’re so inclined.)
We have no hard and fast rules around here.
1 pound dried red or black Calypso beans
2 tablespoons bacon fat
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 teaspoons minced garlic (about 2 medium)
7 cups cold water
2 teaspoons dried Italian herb mix
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (optional)
1. Soak the beans overnight, or use the quick soak method outlined above.
2. Drain the beans and rinse with cool water. Set aside.
3. Heat the bacon fat* in a large sauce pat or small stock pot over medium heat. Stir in the onions and garlic and stir, cooking just until the onions and garlic are fragrant, about 2 minutes.
4. Add the beans to the pan, plus 7 cups of cold water. Turn the heat to high and bring the beans to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer.
5. Stir in dried herbs. Simmer, uncovered, until beans are tender, but not mushy, about 1-1/2 to 2 hours.
6. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper. (Don’t be stingy with the salt unless your doctor told you to, in which case, ignore me.) Stir in fresh thyme if using.
*If you don’t have a jar of bacon grease stashed in the fridge, take 2 or 3 slices of bacon and chop into very small pieces. Cook the bacon, slowly, over medium heat until crispy. Spoon out the bacon bits and you should have enough fat to saute the onions and garlic.