If you are fond of barbecue foods, no doubt a side dish of bake beans have appeared on your plate many times. Around the south, in the middle and eastern part of the south, we tend to like our beans sweetened with some form of sugarcane product be it brown sugar, molasses or syrup. Most always it is seasoned with ketchup, mustard and spices to round out the ‘baked bean’ flavor.
Folks to our west, those with influences from Mexico, well they like their beans in a different way. The Mexican seasonings of cumino, chile peppers and chili powder blends harmonious with a southern style of cookery that brings about a cuisine unique to Texas; a style and taste that is found mainly in the lower part of the state. Not to get off track, but Texas is one big melting pot of cuisine influenced in other areas from settlers of Germany, France, Spain, Polland and along the coast, a very strong influx of Louisianian Creoles.
Now as told, a pot of pinto beans in the Lone Star state always start out with dried beans, that is when making a ranch style dish as this one. The beans are slow cooked with onions, smoked meat and southwestern spices followed with an additional backdrop of flavor using onions, a hot pepper such as jalapeno and sweetness of the tomato. As I put this recipe together, cooked it and enjoyed the western flavors, it reminded me of another of my bean recipes – Frijoles Charros. This is a recipe that is easy to make but will take most of the day from start to finish so be sure to plan ahead.
Ranch Style Texas Pinto Beans
8 to 10 servings
- 1 pound dried pinto beans
- 1 teaspoon white vinegar
- 5 cups water
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 4 slices thick-cut smoked bacon, ham hock or smoked meat of choice
- 2 garlic toes, minced
- 2 cups chopped onions, divided
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon prepared mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
- 2 cups peeled, diced tomatoes
- 2 to 4 jalapeno peppers, seeded and diced
Sort and wash beans. Place in a large stockpot and cover with water at least 2-inches above the beans. Add vinegar and bring to a boil cooking for 1 minute. Turn off heat, cover and let set for 1 hour. Drain beans in a colander. Set aside.
Slice the bacon in 1-inch pieces and cook in a large stockpot over medium high heat until fat renders and bacon is brown. (Or add ham hock or smoked meat directly to the water.) Add the water to the stockpot along with the beans. Add salt, pepper, garlic and 1/2 cup chopped onion. Bring to a boil over high heat and when boiling, reduce heat to low simmer and cook for 1 hour or until beans are almost tender.
Add the Worcestershire, chili powder, mustard, cumin and brown sugar. Stir, reduce heat to low and cook stirring occasionally 30 minutes or until beans are tender. Stir in the tomatoes and jalapenos. Continue cooking until beans are nice and soft and the mixture begins to thicken, about another 30 minutes.