Monday, November 5, 2012

How to Cook Dried Beans from Scratch

Canned beans line our grocery store isles.  Refried, black, pinto, red, kidney, and the list goes on.  Beans are a great addition to so many dishes, and taste amazing plain too!  When we made our New Year's Resolution to give up canned goods, beans was one of the first things I wanted to tackle. I was always intimidated by the thought of cooking dried beans from scratch for one main reason: TIME. I always find that to be the reason why people go for the canned version, and for good reason, it does take time! But if you plan ahead, it really doesn't take that much involvement..and in the end, too much of your time.  Making beans ahead is great because you can make a bunch and freeze!  Also, once you eat homemade beans, you'll see how much better and fresher (obviously haha) they taste than the canned version.  And, of course, you'll avoid BPA in the canned versions.  Below is a recipe I used to make kidney beans, and aside from the time of cooking, you can apply this recipe to most varieties of dried beans.  The most important thing is to make sure you cook the beans thoroughly. Undercooked beans can cause discomfort in your stomach!

Thanks to Alice Waters, I've found this rule of thumb to be useful:

1 pound dried beans = 2 cups dried beans = 6 cups cooked beans

Steps to cook dried beans from scratch (looks like a lot, but I put a bunch of tips throughout here!):
  1. Dried beans should be soaked for several of hours. The easy part about this step is that you can simply soak them over night!  Just place the dried beans in a pot with plenty of water and leave them on a counter. Because the because absorb the water and swell, you want to make sure you have enough water to keep them from poking up above the surface.  If some poke up above the water over night, the beans will cook at a different rate.  A good tip to follow is to cover the beans up with at least three times as much water as beans.  If you don't want to soak the beans over night, 6 hours is a good amount of time to soak the beans (they can be soaked up to 24 hours).
  2. Drain beans after soaking and rinse with water. 
  3. Place the beans in a large pot and cover with fresh water.  The wider the pot the better because the layer of beans shouldn't be too deep.  If the beans are too deep, it will be hard to stir and the beans at the bottom may get mashed.  The water level for cooking the beans should always been an inch or two above the level of beans.
  4. Bring the beans to a boil.  Once boiling, lower heat to a simmer. Skim off any foam that accumulates at the top of the pot.  If you noticed you need more water, you can add more. Simmer gently for about 2 hours (this is what I did for the kidney beans).
  5. You can start testing the beans after an hour. Depending on the type of bean it can take anywhere from an hour and a half to two hours. The nice part about cooking the beans is you really don't have to do much except wait for the water to boil, put it to a simmer, and check on them after an hour!  The beans will be done when they are tender but do not fall apart.  It is better, however, to overcook the beans than to under cookthem!
  6. When the beans are fully cooked, let them cool in their liquid before you drain.  Draining the beans right away will cause the skins to crack and look rugged.  I actually save a good amount of the cooking liquid, because there is lots of flavor here!
  7. Add your cooked beans to your favorite recipe and season them the way you like!
~ Hannah
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