To prepare a hearty batch of classic black beans requires just a few key ingredients … cumin, bay leaf, onion and a piece of smoked turkey or pork product if you are a meat eater. This flavor combination is quite standard but your dish can stand out from the rest by freshly grinding your cumin in any coffee mill which should be reserved just for spices. While grinding, shake to distribute the seeds and a fine cumin powder will adhere to the top of the cap and you can sift grounds over a fine mesh strainer to yield some usable ground cumin. Alternatively, you can roll up your sleeves to manually grind with a mortar and pestle.
To enhance the flavor even more, briefly toast the cumin seeds for a few minutes in a hot, dry pan prior to grinding. To add an onion flavor without dealing with the strange texture of diced onion bits, I suggest adding your onion in halves or quarters on bamboo skewers. Once they’re cooked and the onion flavor is released, the onion pieces can easily be removed. Out of habit, I personally prefer to soak beans to hydrate, but it’s not really necessary as long as you don’t mind cooking them longer.
- 1 lb (16 oz bag) dry black beans
- 6 cups water
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 tablespoons freshly ground cumin
- 1 white onion, peeled and halved
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- In a large pot, pour boiling water over dry beans and let sit for 2 hours to hydrate. Water will turn deep black in color.
- Add smoked meat, bayleaf, cumin, onion and kosher salt to the pot of soaked beans and bring to a brief boil.
- Reduce heat and simmer until beans become tender and meat is falling off the bone, about 2-3 hours. Remove onion, bay leaf and any bone fragments.
- Serve as a side in its own broth, or over any rice of your choice. Freshly chopped cilantro is recommended, but certainly not required.