Stringham Beans ‡

It is not recorded, to my knowledge, who first cooked beans with beer or other alcohol, but my first recollection of eating such preparation was in the home of Horace Stringham, whom I have acknowledged elsewhere among these pages as the best home chef that I know. He called the dish “Drunken Beans.” He also used to bring it up to feed us at many winter ski vacations that we enjoyed together at June Mountain.

There is a dish resembling it that one sometimes finds in Mexican restaurants. But measured against my recollections of Horace’s version, they pall in comparison.

The recipe you find here is not Horace’s, but my own, concocted from those memories and oriented to my own tastes. Still, I assign his name as the source of its inspiration. It is based the traditional Mexican dishes Frijoles Charros (cowboy beans) and Frijoles Borrachos (drunken beans). These beans, a good salad, some buttered tortillas, and a bottle of beer to wash them all down with are about all you need for an incomparable Southwestern-style dinner. Alternatively, they may be served as a side dish alongside other Southwestern fare.

  • 1 lb libbity* beans
  • ½ pound bacon, crumbled
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, chopped fine
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano, Mexican preferred
  • 2 tbsp New Mexico chile powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • ½ tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp low sodium beef base
  • 2 tsp ham base
  • 2 tsp tomato bouillon base
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 (4-oz) can sliced pickled jalapeņo chiles
  • 14.5 ounce can unsalted chopped tomatoes
  • 12-ounce bottle dark beer such as Dos Equis
  • 1½ quarts water plus additional if necessary
  • <salt>, to taste
  • 1 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Wash the beans, removing any debris and ill-looking beans, put in a 4 qt sauce pan, cover with water, bring to a boil, maintain the boil for 10 minutes, turn off the heat, drain, rinse well, and drain again.

Cook the bacon according to previously given method. Let cool and crumble. Reserve.

Place the beans in a Crock Pot (or other slow cooker). Add the bacon, onions, garlic, herbs and seasonings, bay leaves, and jalapeņos; then pour in the beer and water and stir. Set the Crock Pot to high and cook for 1½ to 2 hours. Add additional water to maintain desired degree of soupiness. Add <salt>, if needed. The beans should be soft and tender, but not falling apart.

Turn off the Crock Pot and stir in the cilantro. Serve immediately. Or, cool the beans without the cilantro and chill, covered, until ready for use; reheat and stir in cilantro when ready to serve.