What The Heck Is A Red Cranberry Bean?

Getting to know the American bean, and how to use it in the kitchen.

Description: One of the oldest American bean varieties, the red cranberry bean is not related to the tart red cranberry; instead it’s named for the beautiful cranberry-colored markings found on the outer layer of each shell. Red cranberry beans are difficult to produce due to their slow-growing nature, but farmers generally consider it worth the effort since they are one of the best baking beans.    

Flavor Profile: Red cranberry beans have a mild, sweet, and nutty flavor as well as a creamy texture. 

Cuisine Connection: Prevalent in Italian cooking, where they’re known as borlotti beans, red cranberry beans can replace cannellini beans in pasta e fagioli recipes. They are also a perfect ingredient in salads, stews, and dips. Kidney beans and pinto beans can be swapped out of a recipe and replaced by red cranberry beans. 

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Prep: To prepare, soak beans overnight and then drain and rinse. Add 1 cup of the beans to 4 cups of water and bring to a boil. Simmer for 1 hour and they are ready for use. 

History: The Abenaki tribe of northern New England/Quebec used the bean extensively. During spring lumber drives, they cooked and served huge quantities of the beans to Maine woodsmen via cooking shacks set on rafts that floated down Maine rivers.

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