Beans and nachos

A favorite summer outdoor treat are nachos topped with homemade fried beans.

I have been escaping the summer heat the past few days by doing what the critters do, moving early and late and staying cool the remainder of the time. I’ve done a bit of outdoor cooking recently and thought I’d share a couple of easy summer recipes you might wish to try. Since I use game meat in one of my recipes, this should fit nicely into the outdoors category.

Real refried beans: I learned the basics of this one years ago while in a hunting camp in Webb County, near the Texas/Mexico border. I spent several days hunting and took my buck early on. I had plenty of time to learn a few of the secrets of the old Mexican fellow who was one of the best cooks I’ve met. After I enjoyed one of his “sure nuff” Mexican meals and tasted his refried beans, he allowed me to assist a bit in his kitchen.

Once you have enjoyed refried beans prepared the way I’m about to share, those served in your favorite restaurant may never satisfy again.

Begin with a pound of dried beans. Add a couple of finely chopped jalapenos with seeds, about four cloves of chopped garlic and one medium yellow onion (salt comes after the beans are cooked). You can add a smoked ham hock, but I have a good supply of smoked, sugar-cured wild pork ham in the freezer, and I added several slices. The flavor the pork gives to refried beans is amazing. If using ham hock, remove the skin, bone and fat, and keep the lean pork in the beans.

After a couple hours of slow boiling, the beans should be very tender and the ham slices falling apart. Now, watch the liquid closely and allow the majority to boil out, keep a close eye on the beans while the moisture is reducing and stir continuously from the bottom of the pot to avoid scorching. When the majority of water has evaporated, place the beans in a cast iron skillet with about a half cup of lard (cooking oil will work, but the old cook stressed the use of lard). Mash the beans to the consistency you prefer.

The pork should be so tender it blends well into the beans and incorporates a great deal of flavor. Allow the beans to remain in the skillet until cool, and then I usually place them into small plastic containers with lids and freeze. They keep well and are just as tasty a month later. I like to use good corn chips and coat them with the beans, top with a good cheese and sliced jalapenos and bake or microwave until the cheese melts. A great snack to serve while camped out or at home.

Smoked wild turkey sandwiches: If you’re fortunate enough to have a frozen wild turkey or two in your freezer, here is a great way to put it to good use. If you’re fresh out of wild turkey, one of those leftover birds you bought after Christmas for 40 cents a pound will do quite well.

Begin by smoking your fowl until well done. I use a SmokinTex electric smoker and allow my turkeys to smoke overnight at about 190 degrees. If cooking the chicken pieces, about four hours at 225 degrees will get it done. Once done, allow to cool and then slice into small pieces. You can slice much of the turkey/chicken, but don’t be afraid to use your hands and remove all the meat from the bone.

Place the sliced pieces into a gallon freezer bag and season with a liberal amount of Old Bay seasoning, and add a bit of black pepper. You can use your favorite dry seasoning, whatever suits your taste. This smoked fowl will keep several days in your fridge (but it won’t last that long). We like to use a thick sliced rye bread with a liberal amount of salad dressing on sandwiches piled high with the tasty smoked meat.

Big blues at Lake Tawakoni: Guide Tony Pennebaker began telling me a couple of months ago he expected the bigger blue catfish to turn on in August. After the spawn and from some of his clients’ recent catches, it appears his predictions were right on target. Most folks target the bigger blues during the cold weather months and fish for the plentiful eater-size channel catfish and smaller blues during the summer, but it appears the big bite is on for big fish right now.

It will be interesting to watch the pattern and see if it continues during the warm weather months. Fishing for the bigger catfish requires bigger baits, hooks and often drift fishing techniques in deeper humps and points. If this new pattern does prove to be a steady, dependable one, I’m betting many cold weather trophy catfish anglers will trade their long johns for shorts and T-shirt.

Contact Luke Clayton via his website www.catfishradio.org.

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