I love when I stumble across someone who is passionate about their food life. One such recently discovery was the owner of Rancho Gordo, a grower and missionary for artisinal-heirloom beans. Steve Sando is on a mission and that mission is beans. His blog and website is worth a look, and his travels and meals are the stuff to inspire envy. Just reading the entries made my mouth water, and within 30 minutes I had placed an order for 4- 1lb bags of beans. The Christmas Lima beans are works of art just to look at, and the Santa Maria Pinquito bean all but complete the ingredients for an up coming summer feast (more on that later - think Tri Tip). The Good Mother Stollard were so gorgeous that that they went into water right away and are slow cooking as we speak. But what really got me excited was the hominy/posole.
Posole is corn, but corn that has been slaked or treated with an alkalai (like Lye). Wikipedia explains that “Soaking the corn in lye kills the seed's germ, which keeps it from sprouting while in storage. In addition to preserving the grain as foodstuff, this process also affords several significant nutritional advantages over untreated maize products. It converts some of the niacin (and possibly other B vitamins) into a form more absorbable by the body, improves the availability of the amino acids, and (at least in the lime-treated variant) supplements the calcium content, balancing maize's comparative excess of phosphorus.”
To me, just the word conjures up an image of a cast iron dutch oven over an open fire bubbling away with aromas of stew filling the air. Something simple, yet sustaining, basic yet enticing.
The product and process dates back to 1200-1500 years before the common era and is a key ingredient in traditional central and native American cooking. Perhaps even more importantly, when cooked with pork for a long time, it makes an awesome dish known as Pozole Roja, which I am dying to cook. I have a few recipes I have been hording, but am open to more and once I find the right one, look for a full post.
In the meantime, I have been wondering why this product and this site has so captured my attention. I think it is a combination of elements. one is just the guys passion. Here is someone who has gotten spun up over a humble item that so many people treat as a commonplace afterthought, yet at the same time is probably as central to how life developed on this continent as anything else. Beans – as in not worth a hill of – are as humble as can be, yet represent a culinary product that is good for you, cheap, and delicious. At the same time, beans are good for you, delicious, nutritious and cheap, yet seems to be something most people won't cook because it takes some time. yes, they have to be soaked. Yes, you have to think about it in the morning or the night before and covered with water. But that takes 2 minutes, and if you put it in a crock pot in the morning, you are done by the time you get home. And, to boot, it adds to the incentive to get home. What is not to like?
Yes, I ordered them from California, so this is not a local product, but it is a product from local growers in California and one of the compromises we have to make in this interconnected world. I am sure that in time, we will be able to find as good a product from local sources or grow it ourselves. In the meantime, I am a convert.