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We eat beans or legumes nearly every day in our home. I suppose that is one way we feed this growing family of ours real food on a budget. Beans and rice, beans and tortillas, lentils or hummus, and bean soups are not all that glamorous, but they are inexpensive, nourishing fare that can go with a glass of Mabel’s milk and whatever we’re picking from the garden.

This Simple Black Bean Soup is something I’ve been making a couple of times a week as it is made with just a hand full of simple ingredients. Beans, water, garlic, cumin, tomatoes, and cayenne, to be exact. No bone broth, no blending or smashing; just a bowl full of beans in their own broth with plenty of flavor.

We like to top it with onions, avocado, and cilantro… or whatever else is hanging around. One of the most key factors in cooking beans, I have found, is to not add anything acidic to the pot until the beans are completely tender. The acidity seems to prevent them from softening further. So sample a few beans for tenderness before adding the tomatoes and vinegar. It can make all the difference.

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A Simple Black Bean Soup

Ingredients

  • 2 lb dried black beans, picked over
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 1 Tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne
  • 1 quart diced tomatoes (or equivalent)
  • 1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • Water, as needed
  • Chopped onion, avocado, cilantro, or sour cream to serve, as desired

Directions

Soak the beans overnight in at least two quarts of water. Alternatively, perform a “quick soak” by covering the beans in two quarts of water and bringing to a boil. Turn off the heat and let sit for one hour before proceeding with the recipe.

Drain off the soaking or “quick soaking” water and cover the beans with fresh water to at least three inches above the beans. Add the garlic and cumin and place over high heat. Bring to a boil, cover, and allow to simmer for 1-2 hours or until beans are completely tender, adding more water if needed as the beans soak up moisture.

Once the beans are completely tender, add the cayenne, tomatoes with the juice, vinegar, and salt to taste. If the beans taste flat, be sure to salt them enough.

Serve beans with their broth in bowls with desired toppings.

herbkraut

Joshie and I went to the Pallet Garden last week to see what everyone was up to. Planting garlic, it turned out, along with preparing a small hugelkutur bed. Most everything in that garden had been neglected through the hottest parts of summer and so the few tomatoes and collards that were left were sad at best, but mostly they were just done.

I did find a few exciting perennials in the mix of weeds, however. There was the ever-present stinging nettle, which you can see poking up in the bottom right corner of the top photo. And then there was the Tulsi which I promptly picked for afternoon tea and tipped the seed heads from to see if I could encourage further growth.

And then there were these garlic chives, overly mature but so tasty and begging to be picked.

With a few cabbages on the counter and a new fermentation weight I wanted to try out, kraut seemed the most logical use of the bowl we brought in. I do this a lot with herbs – fermenting them with cabbages and other lovely vegetables to preserve them while taking advantage of their yummy flavor.

But you can also ferment herbs all on their own, in their whole leaf and stem form or ground into a pesto-like paste. You can find recipes for these in Traditionally Fermented Foods.

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These fermentation weights, The Pickle-Pusher, were sent to me a couple of months ago but with the busyness of late summer gardening and such, I just got around to playing with them recently. The design idea is a great and original one. This green “weight” that you see above is actually not a weight at all, though the way it slides into the jar and fits so snugly is great all on its own.

But there is another aspect to the design. Do you see that hole in the middle of the weight? A stainless steel pin is screwed down into the jar through this and the “weight” held down with a great deal of security. According to their website:

“It will allow you to hold the contents of your fermenting or canning jar below the surface of the brine without bothersome weights. It will perform this task at many times the holding power of traditional weight systems! It also extends storage life by doing the same in the refrigerator once your jar is opened.”

It is really quite clever.

I am always a bit leery of much in the way of metal – even stainless steel – coming into contact with my ferments, though, so I forewent the pin and just used the “weight” element, filling the jar 80% full as I like to do, and allowing the brine to cover the weight by at least half an inch.

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A week later, we have some seriously tasty Garlic Kraut that will only get better as it sits on our counter. It’s been several months since we’ve had kraut, with the influx of cucumbers and okra that have needed pickling. And while I really enjoy those pickles and happily crunch away, I have come to find that a good kraut has my fermentation heart forever.

Which reminds me, I need to water the cabbages and radish babies tonight.

If you are interested in trying out The Pickle Pusher for simple, well-executed home fermentation, check out their website. And if you’d like more methods for fermenting fresh herbs, check out Traditionally Fermented Foods.

Note: I received a complimentary sample of The Pickle Pusher to try out. All thoughts and opinions are my own.