Black Bean Salsa

What’s the difference between dried beans and fresh ones? During the summer, we eat many legumes -- think green beans and shell peas -- fresh. But during cold months, we’re glad our ancestors discovered that other legumes -- such as black beans, kidney beans and navy beans -- can be preserved by drying so that we have food to eat in the wintertime! In many early cultures, dried beans were the perfect traveling food -- as they do not require refrigeration and can be cooked in nothing more than water, if that’s all that’s available. In the Northeast, bean crops intended for storage are planted in the spring and summer, left in the fields until the pods are dry, then harvested, processed and cleaned.

* To store, keep in a sealed glass or plastic container in a cool, dark place. Do not freeze or refrigerate, as beans will absorb moisture and lose flavor.
* To cut cooking time, soak beans first. Soaking also dissolves the starches that can cause intestinal discomfort.
* When beans soak, they also double or triple in size. Soak 1 part beans with 3 parts water for three hours, then change water, bring to a boil and simmer 35-45 minutes. One cup dried beans equals three cups cooked.
* The shelf life of dried beans depends on when they were harvested. Beans you find in supermarkets may have been harvested years ago! Field-fresh dried beans are good for at least two years if stored properly.

RECIPE of the month: 

Black Bean Salsa

Dried beans cooked from field-fresh are quite different than dried beans that have spent unknown years in an unknown warehouse. Why buy salsa in a jar when you can make your own? 

* 2 cups cooked black beans
* 1 16-ounce can whole-kernel corn, drained and rinsed
* 1 16-ounce can diced tomatoes
* One half to 3/4 jar picante sauce
* 1/2 cup onion, chopped
* 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
* 6 T. lime juice
* 2 T. olive oil
* 1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
* Salt and pepper to taste

1. Combine all ingredients into a large bowl.
2. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
3. Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours to let all the flavors meld together.
-- Thanks to What’s Cooking America and Cayuga Pure Organics for the beans tips, and Community Cook Rosalind Francis for the recipe! For more recipes, check out the Corbin Hill blog and Facebook page.