NY101: Kuromame

Kuromame (黒豆) literally “black bean,” is a type of soy bean not related to the black beans used in American and Mexican cooking. They are about two to three times the size of normal soy beans, round when dried, and have a deep ebony color. They're sold at KTA or Marukai near New Years. The ready made ones are on sale too, but to do it right,  use the raw beans.

Kuromame is another part of Osechi Ryori and represents a wish for good health and hard work. For some, it's an acquired taste, but these beans are actually extremely rich in anti-oxidants and iron, so maybe the Japanese knew a little something something.

Grandma Ikeda's Kuromame recipe
2 cups kuromame beans
4 1/2 cups boiling water 
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 T. salt
1/4 c. shoyu
2 cups sugar
Combine the ingredients (minus 1/2 cup boiling water to be added later after removing scum) and soak beans at least 6 hours or overnite.

Bring the mixture to boil over medium heat. When mixture begins to boil add 1/4 cup water and remove scum. When mixture comes to a boil again, add 1/4 cup more of water. Remove scum carefully. Then simmer on very low heat for 4 1/2 to 5 hours. Check beans for doneness. Turn off heat and let stand to cool.

Note: Traditional Japanese recipes call for boiling the kuromame with some rusty nails wrapped in gauze to give them the black, shiny color. Grandma's recipe won't give you the totally glossy beans, but the baking soda will keep the color. She also adds chestnuts after the fact. Instead of the nails, some people will cook it in a cast iron pot, but you'd have to wipe the grease off that's used to "season" the pot then reoil it when putting it away.

Some times grandma forgets and the beans run out of liquid and burn to the pot. In that case, there's no saving them. Throw it out and start again. I'm wondering if the recipe could be made in a crock pot?


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