Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Cooking Dry Beans

Cooking dry beans is so very simple.  It is hard to believe that it is something I didn't tackle for so many years of my marriage.  I think it was mostly because I never saw my mom cook beans.  There were nine kids in our family and my mom ran my dad's business from home so her days were very busy.  She didn't kick in and think dinner until about 5:00 every night.  This meant it was too late to have beans done.

I've learned that if I cook a bunch of beans when I think far enough ahead and freeze what we don't use, most nights of the year I can wait until 5:00 to think about dinner and still enjoy the nutrition and cost-saving benefits of dry beans.

Step 1: Sort beans and pull out any that look suspicious.  There usually is only one or two that look a little funny.  Place in large pot.

Step 2:  Cover with enough water that the beans will remain covered even when they are 3 times the size.

Step 3:  Cover the pot and bring to a boil.  Boil for 2 minutes.  Turn heat off and allow to sit for 4 hours.  (It takes a minimum of 4 hours of soaking time to break down the gas producing proteins in the beans.  Some people do not have a problem with beans, but at our house, soaking time matters.)

Step 4: Do more than one kind of bean when you are thinking about it.  I did black beans in one pot and white in the other.

Step 5:  Rinse beans in cool water.  You want to rinse away all the soaking water that contains the broken down proteins.

Step 6:  Return beans to your pot and cover with fresh water again.  You only need the water to cover the beans by 2-3 inches this time since they are already about as big as they will get.

Step 7:  Bring to a boil again and then turn the heat down so the beans simmer.  If you keep the water at a rolling boil, the skins will break down and the beans won't hold their shape as well.  Simmer for 20-45 minutes.  If you want to freeze the beans, you will want to take them off a few minutes ahead of being done.  They will break down just a bit in the freezer.  I begin tasting the beans after 20 minutes.  Some varieties are done by then.  Most of them take more like 30 minutes to be ready for the freezer.  If I am planning a bean soup or refried beans for dinner, I take some beans out at the 30 minute mark for the freezer and I allow the remainder to cook longer so they are softer.

Step 8:  Rinse again and allow to cool before freezing.

Step 9:  Bag up any extra beans for the freezer.

When ready to use frozen beans, microwave just long enough to break out what you need.  Return the remainder to the freezer to use another time.  To thaw the beans you will be using, cover with water in a glass bowl and microwave until warm.  Drain off excess water and use in your recipe.  If using in soup, just drop frozen beans in broth and simmer.

1 pound of dry beans equals about 2 cups which cooks into about 6 cups after soaking.

Dry beans are lots lower in sodium than the canned beans at the store and they cost far less.  So just go for it and try cooking them - you may never go back to using canned beans again!

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