JW’s Rimrock Cowboy Beans


Let’s be honest, back in the days of the Old West beans on the trail were a staple… but a rather bland staple at that.

In the past I’ve posted a couple different variations of Cowboy beans in this blog but for the most part they were either old hand me down recipes from back East writers or one of Western historic value… both will prevent starvation but you won’t find them on the Food Network Channel. Well, for the sake of being a Heritage recipe I left ‘em alone with no changes from the original and posted them.

That being said, these recipes would take 3rd or 4th place in a contest at my table. I love beans but why on earth are so many recipes missing the mark when it comes to taste? Well, no more!

Frustrated with just too bland or too sugary or just plain fire in your mouth recipes , I took maters into my own hands and came up with what I think is an awesome bean recipe I call Rimrock beans. Why Rimrock you ask? Because I live in Arizona’s High Desert area known as Rimrock and that’s where this recipe was born.

Rimrock is ranch country, where coyotes are more common than F-150 pick up trucks (and believe me, there’s plenty of those). My bean recipe matches the terrain here, a bit spicy but not hot like down in Tucson town, a tad of molasses for sweetness reminds me of our delicious dried up mesquite tree beans. I could go on but you’ll find out for yourself, so lets get to the recipe. I think you’ll really like these beans and it’s all Arizona in taste!


 Brand names are mentioned but not mandatory that you use these brands.

1 – # 10 can of Bush’s pinto beans (111 oz. size can).

2 – 15 oz cans of diced tomatoes with green chili peppers (Hatch brand).

1 – 6 oz can of green chili peppers.

2 – 15 oz cans of chili beans (Great Value from Wal-Mart works well).

1 – can of stewed tomatoes – Mexican recipe (S&W brand).

2 cups of beef stock.

1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon of black pepper

1/2 teaspoon of salt (taste before adding any more than this as some of the above ingredients contain salt).

1/4 cup of molasses.

1/4 cup of packed brown sugar.

Add all ingredients into a pot big enough to hold a couple of gallons.

Bring to a boil and simmer until reduced to desired thickness. This can range from the consistancy of soup to that of a blop on your plate. It’s your choice. JW


COWBOY BEANS, Also known as, Whistle berries, Pecos strawberries and Fart-n-darts

courtesy of Google Images

In my latest travels out West, I had to make a stop at a small eatery in Cave Creek Arizona where they serve what I think is the worlds greatest bowl of beans. More a bean soup than anything else, the dish simply burst with the flavor of beans. Sitting there enjoying my big bowl of beans in their own gravy, I made a vow that when I got back home I’d  re create this recipe. The menu at the place simply said, “Cowboy Beans” so I was left on my own to discover their recipe.

Within a few days of returning home, I dragged out my heritage recipe collections to see if any I had came close to the recipe they served up there in Cave Creek.  Nope.

I discovered that all my recipes were of the variety that made thick, brown sugar and molasses style beans. Similar to the popular Boston Baked beans or store bought Bushe’s or Campbell’s Baked beans.  These, I am positive, were not the same style found whipped up by trail cooks from their Chuck wagons.

I had never thought much about what kind of beans those Cowboys really ate and that got me thinking. Exactly what kind of beans did they really eat while out on the trail?

They surely didn’t do the molasses style since that would have meant traveling with loads of brown sugar and jars of molasses. The sugar would have quickly hardened into a rock and the molasses , being rare out west, would have been worth its weight in gold.

Since many trail drives started out in or around Texas, it made sense then that the spices,  beans and cultural taste would be indigenous to the Mexican influence.

I scoured the Western cooking blogs and web sites and found to my amazement, most posted nothing but common syrup thick pork –n-bean recipes and even at that, they used canned rather than dried beans.

Now I have a slight sugar problem, not bad mind you but enough to make me alter my cooking habits a bit in order I don’t fall over dead before I complete my personal bucket list.

So I went about searching through every type of cook book from Western to Vegan for a healthier, non sugar recipe and still I could not find what I had in mind.

Then I found it. When I had been camping out in Texas, I ran across a State of Texas sponsored history attraction that was dedicated to the Texas Trail drives. There amidst the Charles Goodnight collection, was an old Chuck Wagon showing how it was set up. Alongside it in a glass and wooden case, was the reproduction of a few common recipes used back in the day. I photographed them closely and then immediately forgot about them.

Suddenly remembering this, I opened up my Kodak collection of photos and found what I had been searching for. Their recipe for ‘beans in gravy’ eaten on the trail.

Well, I immediately converted the recipe into today’s amounts and whatnot. I changed the sautéing of the veggies in butter and oil versus a “a good hand sized glob of suet” (it sounds worse than it is, suet was a homemade tasty unfiltered lard .

While the beans stayed the same, I had to guess on what a ‘ Mexican pepper’  was,  so I used a combination of one  Poblano and two Cubano peppers. There are many I could have used but these are common down here. I charred them up on an open fire like written but changed from canned to fresh and roasted, my diced up tomatoes. All in all, the new recipe was near as possible to that of the real Chuck Wagon one.

Let me say this. I was thrilled with my beans, they were absolutely delicious!

Sometimes heritage recipes aren’t as tasty, well formed or as good looking as those of today, but a heritage recipe whether good or bad does something a modern recipe can never do. It lets you literally touch the past by using your tongue.



2 cups of dried (not canned) red beans

2 cups of dried (not canned) pinto beans. Some folks advise to pressure cook these guys before hand to get ’em soft

1 large yellow onion (Spanish or Sweet is fine) chopped up fine

3 Tbl chopped up garlic

3 green chili, Cubano, Poblano (your choice of Mexican ) peppers. Grill or roast them up for a minute then then chop them up

3 ripe tomatoes, grill them up for a minute then remove seeds and chop them up

1 Tbl vegetable oil for sauteing veggies (if using olive oil, use light to reduce the olive flavor)

1 Tbl of butter added to sauteing oil

7 quarts of water (for added flavor use 2 cups of vegetable stock and 5 quarts of water)

1 large ham bone with meat attached, pig foot or large slab of salt pork or suet. (Add extra pork fat if using ham bone for taste and

for added ham flavor, add 2 packets of Goya Ham Concentrate to the mix)


1 1/2 tsp coriander seed (toast them up first in a small skillet for bursting flavor, toast until you smell them)

1 whole unbroken bay leaf (remove after cooking)

OPTIONAL,  Add 2 dried hot red chili peppers (1/8 tsp of cayenne pepper can be used instead if you ain’t got chilli peppers)

1 tsp of black pepper during simmering

1 tsp of salt during simmering. (Salt to taste,  add more salt if desired when almost finished cooking)

Cooking instructions

Soak beans overnight in water to cover, changing water once; drain.

When beans are ready, saute onion, garlic, green chiles and tomatoes in butter and oil in a large stock pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat.

Add water / stock and ham bone then bring to a boil.

Add beans, toasted coriander seed, bay leaf and dried chilies.

Continue to boil for 30 minutes, then lower heat, cover and simmer for three to four hours.

After a few hours of simmering, remove the lid, leave it off, and season beans with salt again to taste.

Continue to cook until beans are soft but not mushy.

Remove ham bone and bay leaf before serving.

Makes about 16 servings

Fire roast the tomatoes before chopping them up

Chop up the tomatoes

Chop the onion up into small pieces

Saute veggies in butter and oil

Add Ham bone. I save my ham bones from previous hams by freezing them after the ham is eaten. Add fat to the ham bone as by itself, it will be too lean.

Add microwave heated ham to pot

Roast up the Coriander in a skillet

Fill pot with 7 quarts of water and start to boil. Add beans only after pot is boiling

Boil covered for 4 hrs then uncover and add salt

Don’t forget to remove ham bone, fat and bay leaf when cooking is finished.

Old west ditty.

“Beans, beans the musical fruit,

the more you eat the more you toot!

The more you toot, the better you feel,

So eat your beans at every meal!

Gods gift to Southerners, The catfish!

Reprinted from my book, Mawmaws recollections, observations and recipes. Free pdf download.

Did I mention fried Catfish yet? Nothin’s faster to make nor more delicious, I can smell it now!

Now I understand that many people think of catfish as a dirty ‘ol bottom feeding fish fit only for those who couldn’t afford (or catch) a Trout or Perch. The thing was, yes, it’s a bottom feeder, but y’all have to realize that most our streams an rivers back then was as clean as your tap water is today. Maybe I shouldn’t a said that, I hear there’s some pretty questionable tap water in some places. Anyway, it weren’t no Carp an besides most all Catfish today is farm raised anyway. I can’t understand why anyone would eat Talapia and not a Catfish. Talapi is raised to ‘clean up fish farm pods after Catfish,Trout, Salmon and other expensive fish foul it up with their poo. After the fish are harvested, Talapia are put in and ain’t fed, they eat the other fishes poo till the ponds clean, then they’re harvested!

As far as Catfish goes though, Northern or Southern, once bitten into, everyone agrees it’s dang good!

I always said that if you was able to starve in the South, then you must either have a bunch a marbles rollin’ round inside your head or you’s just plain too lazy to reach your hand out ten feet to get some edible substances. Remember Euell Gibbons? He wrote that book “Stalking the wild asparagus” in the early ’60’s. I still got my copy, still read it from time to time. He come through here one time asking folks for their recipes but he only wanted the ones made from local plants and nuts. Nice man from what I’s told. I hear tell he up an died of a stomach ailment. Ha! Must a been sumpin’ he ate!

Anyway, he showed how much food there really is around us all. We just have to recognize it. I assume the French an’ their uppity snails fit in there somewhere’s but God knows where. Catfish on the other hand is natures answer to those too clumsy to fish proper or for those bordering on being a vegetarian. It takes no skill to catch a Catfish. It takes more skill not too! An even if you’re not prone to eatin meat, why one look at a Catfish an you’d realize they’s so ugly they deserve to be eaten!

But, seeing them golden brown fillets sizlin’ in a iron skillit an having that delicious smell hit you smack in the nose makes you want to put an extra five in the collection plate to thank God for his gift of the Catfish.

Speaking of how easy they is to catch, I once caught one with my shoe! I was a youngster splashin’ in the pond near the house with my friends. I had my shoes up on a limb that over hung the shore a bit. One of ’em fell off, bounced on the ground and plopped itself right into the waters edge. Well, I walk on over and reached on down for my shoe. When I grabbed hold of it, my shoe tugged back at me! Frightened me to death! I screamed an not thinking yanked that ‘ol shoe up an outa the water in kind of a panic reaction sort a way. Out flew my shoe…with a big ‘ol catfish still trying to eat one a the tie strings on it. I got on outa’ there ’cause everyone told me how Catfish would sting ya up good if you touched ’em. I never did find out the truth in that.

Golden Pan Fried ‘Southern’ Catfish

“ If you say you can’t eat a Catfish because they’s so ugly, then why in tarnation would you eat rump roast!”

4-6 catfish fillets

¾ cup corn meal

¼ cup flour

¼ teaspoon of salt

½ cup milk

2 eggs, beaten

1/8 teaspoon of red pepper sauce

2 Tablespoons of oil

Preheat deep fryer or 5 qt sauce pan filled with 2 inches of oil in it to 375 degrees. Any hotter an you’ll burn and smoke up your oil.

Preheat oven to 275 to place fish in after frying to keep hot.

Rinse fish in water and towel dry.

Mix cornmeal, flour, and salt in a large bowl. Stir in milk, beaten eggs, pepper sauce and 2 Tbl oil until well blended.

Coat fish with cornmeal batter, shaking off any excess.

Fry two fillets at a time until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Keep fried fish warm by placing on a cookie sheet in the oven until all are cooked.

Broiled Catfish Fillets

(A healthier alternative than fried Catfish)

4 catfish fillets

1/2 teaspoon of garlic salt

1/2 teaspoon of lemon pepper

Lemon wedges for garnish on each plate

Sprinkle fillets with garlic salt and lemon pepper. Preheat broiler pan for 5 minutes. Coat with shortening spray. Place catfish fillets on broiler pan. Broil 3 inches from heat for 4-6 minutes until catfish flakes easily. Put some garnish like lemon wedges and stuff around them on a plate.

Hands down, the finest sweet potato pie ever made!

A honest to gosh true Southern favorite. It’s so good folks, I now use it as a desert!




1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour. Do not use bread flour as it has too much gluten protiens in it.

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup finely-chopped pecans

1/2 cup cold butter (one stick)

1/4 cups ice-cold water, or as needed

( The original recipe calls for doing all this by hand. Trust me, use the modern method!)

In a food processor, pulse together all the dry ingredients, including nuts and the butter into short bursts until the mixture forms pea-sized lumps. Add the water through the feed chute as you pulse until the mixture forms a stiff dough and pulls away from the sides of the food processor bowl. Form the dough into a 6-inch disk and wrap it in plastic; chill for one hour. The dough can be made in advance. It can be kept refrigerated for several days and even frozen.


1/3 cup chopped pecans, medium chopped

2 to 3 large sweet potatoes (about 2 lbs total), peeled and cut into 2-inch cubes

1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

2 large eggs, slightly beaten

1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk

1/2 teaspoon real vanilla extract or 3/4 teaspoon immitation vanilla

1 tablespoon melted butter

Pecan halves for decoration

  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  • Roll the chilled pie dough into a 12-inch round and press into a 9-inch pie pan. Flute the edges. Bake for 10-15 minutes until the crust is set and beginning to brown slightly. Remove the pie pan from the oven and let it cool.
  • Put the sweet potatoes into a medium pot and cover them with water by an inch. Bring to a boil. Boil slowly until the potatoes are tender with no absolutely no resistance at the center when pierced with a fork.
  • Drain off the water and mash the potatoes by hand with a potato masher. Do not use a food processor or mixer.
  • As you mash the potatoes, add the sugar, cinnamon, medium fine pecans and nutmeg; then whisk in the eggs, milk, and vanilla. The butter goes in last.
  • Once the filling is well-mixed, pour it into the baked pie crust. Discard vany extra mix. Do not over fill crust. Arrange pecan halves around the outside edges and sprinkle the top of the pie with more ground cinnamon. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the filling is set and the edges of the crust have browned.
  • Serve the pie warm or at room temperature with real sweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.