My preference is always to buy dry beans from the bulk bins to cook.
Why? A few reasons:
1. It saves you money. It’s much cheaper to purchase bulk beans than canned beans.
2. Good for the Environment Reason 1:
Cooking dry beans cuts down on waste – no cans to discard.
3. Good for the Environment Reason 2 :
When purchasing dry beans from the bulk section put them into reusable muslin grocery bags – again, no waste!
3. Save time – cook in bulk.
Cook extra and freeze them in pint size containers. There are glass storage containers on the market that can go in the freezer. I’ve tried Ball jars and sometimes they crack so make sure to get freezable glass containers. Be careful and make sure the beans are cool before putting them in glass and then into the freezer.
5. Best for your health:
I have serious concerns about the toxicity of the cans themselves. While BPA has been removed from the lining of many, but not all cans, the cans are still lined with something. Studies show that many of the plastics used to replace BPA are just as toxic, if not more so than BPA. Ugh! Better safe than sorry!
For more information about the importance of purchasing in bulk go to this website:
Buying in bulk
½ lb dry beans = 1 cup of dry beans = approximately 3 cups cooked beans
If you can, soak the beans overnight
• Soaking the beans dissolves the complex sugars (oligosaccharides) that cause intestinal discomfort.
• It shortens the cooking time – saving time and cooking fuel, helping our struggling environment.
• Beans slowly absorb the soaking water, which helps them cook evenly, they don’t split open as easily, nor will they lose their skins.
• Didn’t soak ’em the night before? If you are able soak the beans for at least 3 hours.
Clean the beans
Sort the beans and remove all debris. Compared to years ago, beans are pretty clean these days, however, the one time you don’t do this is the time there will be a rock in the beans that will break a tooth and send you or someone you love to the dentist.
Wash the beans after sorting.
Put them in a bowl, add water, swish a bit then pour the beans through a colander or strainer. After washing, put the beans back into the bowl. Make sure the bowl is big enough to hold the beans plus the water.
Soaking the beans
Bring a pot of water to a boil. Pour boiling water over the dry beans with water at least 3 inches above the beans.
Cover so nothing falls into them.
America’s Test Kitchen found that soaking beans in hot water was the best deterrent for indigestion.
When possible soak the beans overnight, but if that’s not an option try for at least 3 hours.
Cooking the beans
Discard the soaking water and then either pressure cook or simmer on the stovetop.
I don’t own a slow cooker but that works also.
For years I did a quick soak method where I just soaked the beans for three hours. Mainly because I wasn’t organized enough the night before to think about what I was going to do the next day. But then I soaked a batch of chickpeas overnight and the next day they cooked in 10 minutes in my pressure cooker. (Chickpeas that have been soaked for 3 hours can take 30 – 45 minutes in a pressure cooker and even longer when simmered on the stove top). The chickpeas were even slightly overcooked. I remembered why I used to soak them overnight and I have continued to do so since.
Don’t add salt or acidic ingredients like vinegar, tomatoes, tomato juice or a sweetner to the beans. These ingredients keep the beans hard and increase the cooking time. (although the guys at America’s Test Kitchen say to always put a little salt in the beans – that it helps them to cook evenly. Try it and let me know.)
1 cup beans, soaked
2 cups water
1 bay leaf
1” piece of kombu*
1 tablespoon oil – optional
* kombu is a sea vegetable which helps make food more flavorful, adds minerals to dishes and helps makes the beans more digestible.
Put all ingredients into the pressure cooker. Put the lid on and bring the cooker to full pressure.
Different pressure cookers have different gauges to let you know they are at full pressure. Some rock, some pop up and have lines on them to let you know the pounds pressure is in the pot. Make sure you know how to tell when your pressure cooker is at full pressure.
Once pressure cooker has come to full pressure, cook most beans for 4 to 8 minutes.
The oil is said to reduce the foaming. No idea – I do it just to make sure.
Chickpeas take a little longer, as do soybeans.
It is not recommended to pressure cook split peas since they foam – but I have had batches of split peas that just would not get soft by simmering them. I recently cooked split peas for soup for three days and they were still crunchy! I put ’em in the pressure cooker and they were done in 3 minutes. If you are going to try to cook split peas in a pressure cooker make sure you don’t bring the pressure cooker to full pressure.
Clean the pressure cooker
After pressure cooking beans make sure to give the pressure valves, gasket and lid a thorough cleaning. The foam, starch and sometimes skins from beans will dry in these areas and clog the pressure cooker for the next use – making a big mess! (there’s a reason I know this!)
Don’t have a pressure cooker and never want to get one cause they scare you?
Here’s how to cook them on the stove top.
Use a heavy gauge stockpot with a lid.
1 cup soaked beans
4 cups water
1 bay leaf
1” piece of kombu* see note above about kombu
Put all ingredients into a heavy stockpot with a heavy lid.
Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer the beans.
Cover the pot, check regularly.
Some people say to remove the foam that comes to the surface but I haven’t found that to be necessary.
Beans are done when they can easily mash between your fingers or with a fork.
They will take anywhere from an hour to three hours when simmering on the stove top.
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