My sister who lives in Texas told me about ranch beans and how good they were over rice. Beans and rice had never been attractive to me until I was carrying my daughter. Up to that time, I wasn’t a fan of beans. I’ve also learned over the years that half the battle of overcoming a food aversion is finding the correct recipe!
I finally ran across my first can of ranch beans at my favorite scratch and dent surplus food store. My daughter (predictably) fell in love with the taste and texture of them. But I could only find them at the surplus grocery store near my folks up North. I needed to find a steadier supply of ranch beans!
That was easier said than done.
First, they don’t sell canned ranch beans this far north at any grocery store I frequent. Second, a search of the internet turned up mostly bean recipes that started with cans of sweet pork and beans. (Yeck!) I had bags of pinto beans I’d scavenged while helping someone pack their kitchen before they moved. (They came from the local food pantry. Lots of people who get staple foods this way don’t know how to cook them.) The savory bean recipes I did find weren’t flavorfully seasoned. I’m not talking spicy hot. I mean they were bland.
I ended up creating my own recipe, which is more seasoned then the stuff you get in cans. I make it in large batches and then freeze it in meal-size portions. We eat these beans any time supper is Tex Mex or we have a taste for beans and rice.
2 pounds Pinto beans, dry
2 quarts water
12 ounces tomato paste
32 ounces diced tomatoes
6 ounces chopped green chilies
3½ ounces ancho chilies in adobo sauce, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 ½ cups onions, minced
3 tablespoons chili powder
2½ teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon oregano, heaping
1 ham bone or smoked ham hock
1 cup ham or meat picked from ham bone or ham hock after cooking
To double this recipe, use two big pots for steps 1 and 2 (2 lbs. of dry beans per pot). Pour all beans, ham, and the rest of the ingredients doubled into an 18-quart Nesco cooker and simmer together for the last 1 ½ hours of cooking time. (Soften onions by sautéing before adding to the Nesco.)
This is an economical recipe because its main components can be bought in bulk or as loss leaders. You start with dry beans (cheaper than canned) and a smoked ham hock (about $1.25 for my last batch of beans)—if I don’t have a leftover ham bone in the freezer! This recipe calls for common herbs and spices that can be obtained cheaply at dollar stores or larger supermarkets that carry larger containers of generic or house brand spices. Most of the canned goods (tomato products and green chills) can be bought as loss leaders (In my area, Walmart usually has the best price on green chilies and anchos in adobo sauce.)
You can use this recipe for potlucks, Mexican/Tex Mex themed dinners, or big family gatherings. Enjoy! Begonia