Learn to Cook Legumes…..
I haven’t posted any Cooking 101 tutorials in a while and I thought that today would be the perfect day. The last few days have just been insanely gorgeous so I have spent most of my time going on walks with the littlest while our big Kindergartner is in school, and then spending time with them while they play outside once he gets home. Yesterday was almost 80 degrees, and then it decided to rain, OK pour with tornado conditions, and today the temperature has dropped back to a measly 60 degrees and it is overcast. Nothing to write home about. It is just best to stay in the house and catch up on what I can while the little princess is taking a nap.
Since transitioning to a nutritarian lifestyle (plant based and whole foods) I have found that there are 101 ways to eat legumes (beans). I have also found that a lot of people get their beans from a can, and when you recommend dry beans they have no idea how to cook them. I like dry beans for many reasons, but the top two are they are generally cheaper and they are healthier. I know that more often than not people assume that canned beans are just easier, and dry beans take too much prep time. While it can be easier to just grab a can out of the pantry if you are in a hurry, it is just as easy to make a big batch of beans and portion them out into two cup servings. Then you can pop them in the freezer, and you can just grab and go when you need them.
When you choose the pot you are going to use for your beans make sure it is big enough, beans expand when they soak, and then more when they cook. For half of a pound I use my medium size pot, for a full pound I use the largest pot that I have. The general rule of thumb for water to bean ratio is eight cups of water per pound of beans. I know a pound sounds like a lot, but it is only two cups of beans, but like I said, they grow. If you use just two cups of dry beans you will yield six cups of cooked beans! If you are portioning them out for quick use, like you would have canned, this will give you three cans worth.
Soaking is always the first step you need to take before cooking dried beans. The first method is you can soak them over night. I rarely remember to soak beans the night before until I’m already in bed, or somewhere around 2 am, and then there is no way I’m going to get up to soak them because then I will be wide awake and that isn’t good for anyone. 😉 So, for years I have been using the quick soak method that is generally on the bag. It requires you to boil the beans for about ten minutes, then allow them to sit for an hour. After that you drain them, and refill the pan with water, and boil them until tender. To me, this was really time consuming, and once you start the process you don’t want to just leave them sit for an extended period of time because of the risk of botulism. Just recently I decided to try a couple hour soak. That way if I got busy it wouldn’t matter and they could sit as long as I needed them to. I ended up letting them soak for two hours and then drained and boiled them.
Being able to use a shorter soak like this makes it much handier for those who forget to soak them until later in the day, or for anyone who wants to pop them in the fridge before they go to work, or run errands, and then they will be ready to boil when they get home. The number one thing everyone wants to remember when they are boiling up dry beans is MAKE SURE THEY ARE DONE. There are a lot of foods that we can under-cook and enjoy “al dente”, but beans are not one of them. If you under-cook beans, there is a good chance that you are going to get sick. Studies show that it takes about 1-3 hours to feel the effects, and the intensity of the food poisoning is determined by how many of the under-cooked beans you ingested. Don’t let this scare you away though! This is really uncommon and in all honesty, should never happen.
When you are ready to boil your beans start by placing the heat on the stove top on high and putting a lid on the pan. Once they come to a boil reduce the heat to low, or medium low, and angle the lid so it sits loosly on the pot. This will allow the beans to simmer without boiling over. Depending on the size of the batch you are cooking, they usually cook in 60-90 minutes. After an hour remove a single bean and mash it with a fork. If it mashes without any effort your beans are done. Now that your beans are cooked you can either use them in a recipe, or transfer them to a storage container to cool in the fridge, or freezer. Then you can sit back, relax, and enjoy!
NOTE: If you want to salt your beans, add the salt half way through the cooking time. I personally do not salt any of the beans that I cook.
Do you prefer canned or boiled beans?
Do you think that cooking dry beans could be as convenient as using canned?