Cranberry Beans

The cranberry bean originated in Columbia and resembles a pinto bean but with more of the cranberry-red speckling.  The shells as the beans ripen become light tan to creamy white with patches, sometimes extensive, of cranberry red.  They taste much like a pinto but are, in my opinion, even better, especially when fresh.

They can be found fresh in San Francisco farmers’ markets from July through October, and my recommended procedure is to buy a few pounds of the fresh ones and spread them on newspaper on the floor when you bring them home.  If you wait until the next day to shell them, they will be much easier to shell, and the flavor will be unimpaired.

Once shelled, the beans should be rinsed and cooked in unsalted water with a bit of chopped carrot and onion.  Salt them only after they’re tender, which can take as little as 45 minutes.  They are the best bean i ever ate, second only to fresh pintos, which you almost never see in markets even though the dried ones are the most popular bean on this continent.

After you’ve eaten them fresh a few times, you’re ready to preserve them.  Once shelled and rinsed, they are blanched for a minute and a half in boiling water (which kills enzymatic activity and preserves the fresh taste), plunged into cold water to cool, and then frozen in airtight plastic bags.  You can then feast on them throughout the winter, spring, and early summer.

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