Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Cooking Dried Beans

Cooking with dried beans is a skill that is probably lost on most of us. I bet our moms knew how to do it, I sure a shootin' bet that our grandmas knew how to do it.  How come we don't know how to do it? At least, I don't. Do you?

I have had beans cooked from dried beans before, I think they are delicious! The taste and texture seems to be better than the beans in cans. Dried beans can be stored in their dry form for a really long time. An excellent source of protein, dietary fiber and complex carbohydrates, legumes and beans are flavorful, nutritionally dense, inexpensive and versatile. What more could you ask for?

Sort: Arrange dried beans on a sheet pan or clean kitchen towel and sort through them to pick out any shriveled or broken beans, stones or debris. (Take our word for it; running your fingers through the beans in the bag doesn't work the same.)

Rinse: Rinse the sorted beans well in cold, running water.

Soak: Soaking beans before cooking helps to remove some of those indigestible sugars that cause flatulence. There are two simple ways to get the job done:

Regular soak: Put beans into a large bowl and cover with 2 to 3 inches of cool, clean water. Set aside at room temperature for 8 hours or overnight; drain well. (If it's really warm in your kitchen, soak the beans in the refrigerator instead to avoid fermentation.)

Quick soak: Put beans into a large pot and cover with 2 to 3 inches of cool, clean water. Bring to a boil then boil briskly for 2 to 3 minutes. Cover and set aside off of the heat for 1 hour; drain well.

Cook: Put beans into a large pot and cover with 2 inches of water or stock. (Don't add salt at this point since that slows the beans' softening.) Slowly bring to a boil, skimming off any foam on the surface. Reduce heat, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally and adding more liquid if necessary, until beans are tender when mashed or pierced with a fork. Cooking times vary with the variety, age and size of beans; generally you're looking at about 1 to 2 hours.

Pressure Cooker: A pressure cooker will save time and energy in cooking beans. Never fill the cooker
fuller than about one-third of capacity to allow for expansion and foaming. The foaming can
be minimized by adding 1 tablespoon of oil. Approximate cooking time at 10 pounds of
pressure is 20 minutes, at 15 pounds of pressure, 10 minutes.

Slow Cooker: Since slow cookers vary considerably in wattage, it is suggested that you follow the
manufacturers directions for cooking beans.

Microwave: Place one cup of soaked beans in enough water to cover. Always use a large container
to allow for expansion and cover with a lid or plastic wrap. Follow the manufacturers instructions for simmering the beans until tender.  Simmering gently and occasional stirring will minimize the bursting of skins.
At high altitudes, or in hard water, the cooking time may be increased.
The addition of acid, such as tomatoes, lemon juice or vinegar, slows the softening
process. Always cook beans until tender before adding acid ingredients.

Beans are done when they can be easily mashed between two fingers or with a fork. Always test a few beans in case they have not cooked evenly.

Beans taste better if cooked a day ahead, but they should be refrigerated to avoid becoming sour. When cooked, they can be frozen. Store cooked beans, covered, for up to four days in your refrigerator. Cooked beans can be frozen up to 6 months.

And there you have it, now you are ready to add your seasonings, make them into salads and side dishes and main dishes and just about anything else you can think of.