Return of the Neverending Bean Pot

beans.jpeg(Photo courtesy of the Oh So Vari Shari)

Why beans? Beans are nutritious, tasty and economical. They are a wonderful complement to, or centerpiece of, a great meal. I wish to always have a batch at the ready.

Popular menu favorites in our home are beans and rice and bean burritos -- I have also been known to sneak black beans into a tomato based pasta sauce or any type of soup. Some members of the household have expressed concern about the sanitary aspect of the 'neverending bean pot', while others are squeamish over the constant intake of beans and the potential gastrointestinal repercussions. I submit that simply bringing the pot to boiling at each serving insures safe eating. As for the possibility of stomach ills, the cause is also the cure. Infrequent consumption leaves one's insides unready for the challenge of the glorious bean. On the contrary, regular feedings develop the necessary inner fortitude to savor the healthful flavors without worry.

At right are the bean 'dregs' from the previous batch. This sludge contains a lot of goodness and it would pain me to discard it. It is packed with the wonderfully comingled flavors of my super secret spice mix and the guts of exploded beans. This becomes the base for the next batch (dry beans pictured at left) saving countless cents in spices and giving the next pot a nice thick starter base.

I began my first 'neverending bean pot' in the fall of 2003 while living in Boulder, Colorado. The idea was not universally well received, but I was certain I had discovered something so wonderful and novel that I must persist. Months later I found that the 'neverending bean pot' has long been a custom in Jamaica where there is a family bean pot that is never fully emptied. When a new family is created in marriage, it is ritual that the new couple begin their own 'neverending bean pot' by combining sludge contributions from each family pot for their own unique, everliving batch.

Shamefully my bean pot has been subject to interruption. It did not survive transitions from Boulder to Denver or the recent move to Durham, but I am pleased to say that it is reincarnated in a very special corner of our fridge.

mark, Apr 4 2006 11:32AM

i've always been interested in sourdough starters -- some of which date back a century and continue to be used. your bean pot can now be added to my list of perpetual foods.

and for you web nerds out there, i have been using the same transparent pixel for 6 years.

Ann, Apr 4 2006 7:19PM

I have never heard of this, but it makes me really want to try a dish made from the neverending bean pot! I always like the bean sludge from a pot of beans made in the crockpot and feel like I'm wasting something when I get rid of it...I never thought about keeping it.

matthew, Apr 5 2006 10:58AM

Along the same lines, but a much riskier endeavor would be to maintain our own propietary yeast strain for brewing beer. From what I've read, this is generally not advised for home brewers.

chris, Apr 7 2006 12:36PM

I recall the never ending container of grease drippings on my grandmother's cooktop

Heather, Apr 13 2006 11:20PM

My sister-in-law taught me that if you add a little dried seaweed in the form of kombu to a pot of beans while they cook, it will help reduce those gastrointestinal repercussions Tom mentioned. (You can find dried kombu in the Asian section of most health-type grocery stores.)

Additionally, Chef Peter Berley of "The Modern Vegetarian Kitchen" sings the praises of beans + kombu because the addition of kombu adds a lot of trace minerals and apparently makes the beans soften quicker. (p. 230, "Beans, Pulses, and Kombu: A Great Combo")