Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Cooking Beans

One of my favorite ways to save money and be environmentally friendly is to cook my own beans from dried.  It's really very simple and I know what went into cooking them (did you know that canned beans have a lot of salt and some even have corn syrup?).  One pound of beans costs less than 4 cans of beans, and I usually get at least that much, if not more, once I cook the beans.  When I do cook beans, I usually do 2 pounds at a time and freeze them in 1.5 cup jars (I'll do an entry on the freezing process later).  That's the same size as a can of beans, they're ready when I need them, and I know how they were prepared. 

Here are the steps for cooking your own dried beans:

Sort beans and place in a large bowl.  Dried beans are natural and have been sorted to remove rocks, dirt clumps, etc.  However, most of this is done mechanically and some pieces make it through with the beans.  So, you'll want to go through the beans and check for anything that was missed.  I actually enjoy this step.  It makes me slow down a bit, I feel more connected to the food I'm preparing, and I know we're getting a natural, whole food - not something processed.

Rinse and cover beans with plenty of water (approx 8 cups/lb).  For this step I like to use a colander sitting inside a bowl.  This allows easy rinsing and draining of the beans by just lifting the colander, leaving the water behind in the bowl.  Let beans soak at least 6 hours.  I like to start them soaking either first thing in the morning or the last thing at night, depending on when I need the beans to be done.

Drain and rinse beans - they'll be much larger than when the started soaking.

Place beans in large pot or crockpot (my preferred method) and add water until the water is about an inch above the beans.  Turn on the heat.  The length of cooking time will vary depending on the temperature and the size of the beans.  I'd give you a chart, but there are really too many variables.  On example though is that I will let pintos cook all night and all the next day on low heat.  It's about the same for garbanzo beans.  If you want to cook your beans fast, I believe you can replace 2 hours of cooking on low heat with 1 hour of cooking on high heat, with the crockpot.  If you want to cook your beans on the stovetop, you'll want to allow at least 3 hours.

I usually season my beans with salt, about 1-1/2 tsp per pound - still much less than canned beans.  I also wait to add the salt until the end of the cooking time as salt can slow the cooking time of the beans.

Now you're ready to enjoy your beans however you usually do with canned beans.  My goal in a few weeks is to cook a big pot of one kind of bean and then do a week's worth of recipes with that batch - and then share them with you!  Until then, here are some previously posted recipes for you to try:

Taco Soup

Rice and Beans

Pinto Beans

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