The pinto and the black bean are named for their appearance. The flavor of these humble beans can be used in soups, salads, dips, spreads and sandwiches or as meat substitute. Beans are a low-cost source of Vitamin B, protein and calcium.

If you want your beans to have the best flavor they should be cooked until the skin is tender – just like the inside of the bean.

At the high altitudes of Taos County, beans take longer to cook than they do at sea level. Soaking the beans overnight until they double in size will help with the cooking process.

You can also use a pressure cooker, but we’re just going to include regular stove-top cooking in this recipe because if you’re using a pressure cooker, you’re braver than me. My childhood is marred by an exploding pressure-cooker incident, which has always led most to believe the pressure cooker is only for the most adventurous of cooks.

Another tip to give beans a better flavor is to cook them in soft water – something most people in Taos County don’t have.

3 cups pinto or black beans
2 ½ quarts hot water
¼ cup salt pork, cubed bacon or fatty ham
3 garlic cloves, peeled
One medium yellow onion, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon salt or more
1-3 Tablespoons red chile powder depending on your taste

Sort out the wrinkled and blackened beans checking for small dirt clods or pieces of gravel. Rinse them in cold water. Put them in a large pot (understanding they are going to double in size), cover them with at least 6 cups water and let them soak overnight.

Bring the beans to a boil under a high heat, then cover and reduce the flame with the intention of letting the beans cook for a couple of hours or more with regular checks, additions of water (if needed) and stirs.

I now use a slow cooker for cooking beans. There are just too many interesting things to do during the day and if I leave the task to the slow cooker, I’ll be reminded I have a pot of beans cooking when I return to the kitchen rather than the awful rancid reminder of burnt beans. Let’s not even talk about what it does to your good bean pot if a batch of beans does get away from you.

It’s not really worth listing cooking times because depending on the batch of beans and how long they have been dry will dictate how many hours it will take for the skin of the bean to be a tender as the inside. Plan a couple or three hours of cooking time at least.