Frijoles de la olla or beans from the pot are simplicity at it’s best! I will confess that my preferred method of cooking dried beans is in my traditional stove top pressure cooker. I do this because I need the beans in a timely manner, but when I do remember to soak my beans over night, I pull out the olla de barro (clayware pot) and cook them low and slow.
Clean and wash the beans!
Nowadays you can find various bagged dried beans at the market that are pretty clean and intact. When I was a kid, mom would ask me to help clean the beans. She would spread the beans on the kitchen table and we would sort out the rocks and broken beans. After rinsing them a few time they would go in a large stainless steel pot for the low and slow cooking. When she remembered to soak them overnight, the beans would cook in about 3 hours. Non soaked beans take a while longer. There would always be a pot of water on low on the back burner. Beans must always be covered with plenty of water. Never add cold water to beans that are cooking. Slows everything down.
To add salt or to wait?
Dad used to cook beans sometimes. He told me to never add salt to uncooked beans! That’s what dad said!
I took his advice and wait until the beans are tender before seasoning with salt. If you add the salt ahead, the beans could be tough and not cook through. I have had a few followers write to me and state that they season the beans ahead with no problems. Do I want to salt ahead and take a chance that my beans will be tough? No! Lol! Maybe I will test the theory on a small pot of beans and report back to you all. Another thing that could result in tough beans is if the dried beans are old.
I once had someone comment to me that people in Mexico don’t eat black beans or seafood! What?
Of course they do! How could we enjoy all those mariscos(seafood) that are plentiful on the beautiful coast of Mexico. Speaking from my own experience, my family is from Monterrey, N.L., Mexico and the meat dishes are definitely what they are known for. Growing up, we only had seafood during lent or the occasional shrimp cocktail. I came to appreciate and taught myself many of the seafood dishes on my blog because I love mariscos! Black beans are consumed more in southern and coastal regions of Mexico. Pinto beans are what I grew up enjoying, but I love black beans and puerano beans too!
Why wait for hours to cook beans when the pressure cooker is faster?
For me, it’s about keeping the traditions alive of all of the family that came before me. Seems like we are all in a hurry these days for everything. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy my pressure cooker, but now and then I take the time and just let the foods cooks low and slow. There is a sense of satisfaction with the whole process.
Are the ollas de barro (clayware) safe to use?
It’s kind of hard to answer that question honestly. The clayware is manufactured in all regions of Mexico and the quality of each piece varies depending on the manufacturer. In many cases these stays the barro is stamped on the bottom letting you know if it is lead free and safe for food or if it is just for decoration. It’s very easy to cure the clayware. Soak the pieces in warm water for a few hours. After a few hours, let it dry at room temperature. I take fresh garlic and rub the bottom that has no glaze. The garlic form a light seal to say. Fill the olla 3/4 of the way with water and heat on low until water begins to bubble and evaporates slightly. Using the Mexican clayware is a personal choice.
You only have to cure it once and they should not be used at high heat. The clayware heats evenly and retains the heat for a long time.
I forgot to add the bay leaves!
I always wanted to prepare charro beans in the olla de frijoles. This is what happened.
Eight strips of smoky bacon.
1 large Roma tomato, handful of cilantro, 1 serrano sliced in half, 1 serrano chopped, 3/4 c white onion diced
Once bacon starts to get crispy, add the onion and serrano
After 5 minutes, add the tomato
Sauté for another 5 minutes
Add cooked ingredients to cooked beans
I cooked 8 oz. of longaniza and added that too! I didn’t have any hot dogs on this day, but you could add 2 sliced hot dogs when you cook the longaniza or chorizo.
Add 8 oz of pickled jalapeños with 1/3 c of the vinegar from jalapeños.
Let that cook together for 10 minutes. But, wait! Mom liked pouring in a little lager style beer to the beans. How much you add is up to you. Typically I pour in 8 oz. Adds flavor!
And that’s about how I cooked dry beans from scratch using the olla de barro, then turned them into charro beans!
Frijoles de la olla reminds me of home. It truly is the simple foods, like this, that I crave when it comes to Mexican food.
- 2 1/2 cups of dry pinto beans
- 1 medium white onion peeled and sliced in half
- 1 whole bulb garlic slice in half
- 2 bay leaves
- 1-2 serrano or jalapeño sliced
- 4 quarts of water
- salt to taste
- Remove any broken beans or stones you find. Transfer beans to a colander. Rinse well under cool water several times. Transfer to a large pot and cover with water. Let the beans soak overnight.
- Drain and rinse the beans the next day. Transfer to a large bean pot and cover with 4 quarts of water. Add the onion, garlic, chile pepper and bay leaves. Cover pot ¾ of the way and heat to medium.
- When the beans come up to a boil, reduce the heat to a steady simmer and continue cooking for 2 ½-3 hours or until beans are soft and tender. If the water reduces too much, pour in more boiling water. You never want to pour in cold water or it will take longer for beans to cook.
- Once beans are soft and cooked through, season with salt, to taste. Let beans cool before storing in an airtight container refrigerated for 4-5 days.