Friday, May 1, 2015

Bean There, Done That - Using Dried Beans

I have to say, I love canned beans. Super easy, pretty cheap (especially if you get it in bulk from someplace like Big Lots or Grocery Outlet), and convenient. Always on hand.

However, you can get dried beans, often for less than $1 a lb. when buying 25 lb. bags, and those bags will last for frickin' ever. Mostly. It can also be inexpensive in the bulk section at the store as well. And when fully hydrated, the beans that you pay $1/can at the store for costs about 12 cents dry. 

So here are the basic steps for using beans (and dried grains). It does call for planning ahead. Hard, but doable. Here are the basic steps for any bean recipes.

Step One: Sort the beans
Most beans are packaged straight from the field, so they have rocks, bugs, and assorted nasties. Measure the amount you want and spread them on a light colored dishtowel. Spread them in a single layer, and keep a sharp eye for anything that is not a bean, including empty hulls. Scoop up the picked through beans, dump them in a colander, and give them a quick rinse.

Step Two: Soaking the beans
Beans roughly double in size when fully cooked, so figure how much you want to deal with. Add enough water to cover by 3 inches, and soak anywhere from 4 hours to 24 hours (beyond that, esp. in warm weather, they can start to ferment). I like to add salt to the soaking water (about a tsp.) since, contrary to myth, it doesn’t cause the beans to be hard. It’s acid that does that, so save the tomatoes for later.

Step Three: Cook the beans
Drain and rinse the soaked beans and put in a pot. Add a clove of garlic, 1 bay leaf, and  enough water (or stock and water, or water and some bullion granules) to cover by about an inch (inch and a half for garbanzos). Partially cover and bring to a simmer. Old beans take longer to cook; long soaked beans take less time to cook. Most beans take about 1 to 1-1/2 hours, chickpeas up to two hours, smaller beans less time. You can use a crockpot on low for this. Drain the beans, reserving the cooking liquid if necessary for the recipe.

To protect from insects, use a double plastic system - rubber band the package it comes in, then put in a nice sturdy ziplock. If you have rodents, you need metal or glass containers - Ikea has cheap containers in a wide variety of sizes, and your local hardware store will have small garbage pails, ash cans, paint cans for low cost, not to mention the ubiquitous mason jar available almost anywhere.

The Musical Fruit

You know what I’m talking about.

This is from the US Dry Bean Board
"If high-fiber foods such as dry beans are not a regular part of your diet, the natural oligosaccharides (complex carbohydrates) in beans may cause temporary digestive discomfort. Research shows that adding beans to your diet on a regular basis — at least once or twice a week — reduces flatulence.

The best way to reduce beans’ naturally occurring oligosaccharides, tannins, phytic acid, and trypsin inhibitors is to use the quick hot-soak method to soften dry beans, then drain the soaking water and start with fresh water for cooking."

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