Let me just get this out of the way: The beans turned out fine. The recipe is not itself a disaster; it is for a disaster. I know some of you will feel like the title misdirected you. Sorry, but it was too punny to pass up. Oops, I did it again.
I bought these Pinto beans in late 1998 and stored them on Jan. 23, 1999, in preparation for whatever, including a possible Y2K disaster, if it ever happened. During all the hysterics, most of you probably felt, like I did, that nothing would happen. It might happen, but probably wouldn’t.
However, we couldn’t really know for sure, could we? I couldn’t. I have a better-than-average future-detector, but even that wasn’t enough to lead me to a confident prediction on the matter. That’s why we prepare… in case something happens.
Preparation is just risk abatement.
But even when you’re preparing for Armageddon, you have to deal with economic reality. When my rich friends were buying $5000 disaster kits for four, I (and many of you) were working “connections” with institutional and restaurant wholesalers, or tapping existing ones. (Don’t get me wrong — I’m happy to exploit my economic resources, such as they are. If I have the money, I gladly spend it to save time and effort). Dry goods were on everyone’s list, and these Pinto beans were a popular item.
These days you can buy Pinto beans at Amazon for about $1.42/lb shipped, but you can pick them up at Sam’s Club for $0.68/lb or better. (I am waiting to hear back from them about the price of large purchases — will update).
Storing Dry Beans
There are much better ways to store them than what I did. I just froze them (to kill any bugs), then placed them in a white food storage plastic bucket, put on the lid, let the contents warm up to room temp, then fully sealed the lid.
Better practice is to put them in a mylar bag (in the bucket) to isolate them from light, fill the bucket with nitrogen, or at least insert a desiccant to keep them dry and oxygen absorber to prevent oxidation. I have read that many foods gradually lose nutritional value in long-term storage, but my thinking is that some is better than none — just eat more, if you must.
Anyway, I didn’t open the beans again until June of 2014. They were still dry, had no odor, no mold, no bugs, no problems.
Preparing Beans After Long Dry Storage
You can just boil them with salt, of course, but since I have the capability, why not make something delicious? So I sautéed some of my blow-your-mind homemade bacon with a sweet onion and some black pepper, then added all that to a crockpot with the beans, water, and a little apple cider vinegar. I served it after 18 hours, sprinkled with cilantro, green onion, and salt. (The photo shows them served over rice — a fabulous variation of this recipe).
Here are some observations:
- Even after 18 hours, the beans were not fully tender. I estimated in the video that they would need another 6-8 hours in the crockpot, and that turned out to be about right.
- The dish has a slight bitterness I didn’t expect. It’s not by any means unpleasant — I’m just not sure if it’s in the beans or some other ingredient. I’ll need to cook some plain to rule out the beans themselves.
- The beans need washing. Over the last decade I’ve gotten used to prewashed beans in little 5-lb bags, so I’m out of the habit, but I should have washed them. There’s grit in the bottom of the pot.
- I love beans, but if you have to eat this every single day as part of your survival stock, it’s going to be really important to have some goodies like the bacon, onions, and garnishes to vary the dish. It turns plain salted beans into a really tasty meal. Try chili powder and fresh chopped tomatoes, or panch puran for an Indian twist. Basil, lemongrass, and coconut milk will give it a Southeast Asian flavor. Whatever works for you. Sometimes variety is a virtue in and of itself. Don’t overlook the importance of morale in survival situations.
- My family and I have eaten this dish at various times over several days with no problems. Evidently, the beans are fine.
Basic 15 Year Old Bean Recipe
Directions: Simmer low for 20 hours, stirring frequently. Long cooking time is required for long-stored dry beans. Check often to make sure there is plenty of liquid to keep from sticking and burning on the bottom. A crockpot is preferable, but if the electric grid is down, you’ll just have to give it lots of attention.
Variation of the 15 Year Old Bean Recipe
- Onion, sweet if available
- Green onion
- Black pepper
- Rice (optional)
Directions: Dice the bacon and onion, and fry with black pepper in a skillet until onion is tender and translucent. Transfer to cooking pot or crockpot with all the fat. Rinse beans and add to pot. Add water. Cook as in basic recipe. (Cook rice if desired). Serve (over rice if desired) and add chopped cilantro, green onion, and salt to taste.
- For an Indian theme, roast panch puran in a medium skillet, then add bacon, onion, and black pepper, and proceed as in the Variation above.
- For a Southeast Asian theme, proceed as in the Variation above, but boil the beans with coconut milk, basil, and lemongrass.
- For a Southwestern theme, proceed as in the Variation, but add chili powder to the beans when boiling them.
The possibilities are limited only by your imagination and taste.