Food Storage: Bean Cooking Tips

Here are some great tips for cooking beans I’ve come across. Just thought I’d share them with y’all! Have a great week!! (I won’t be posting this week due to some crazy family schedules, but enjoy all the other reading there is to do!) πŸ™‚

Tips for Cooking Beans

  • During hot summer weather, soak your beans in the fridge to prevent fermentation.
  • Drain off soaking water to reduce gas. πŸ™‚
  • After soaking, get rid of any beans that have floated to the top.
  • If you soak your beans, but don’t have time to cook them, you can store them in the fridge in a tightly sealed container for 2 to 3 days before you cook them.
  • Just prior to cooking the beans, bring your cooking water up to a hard boil for five minutes.
  • To keep beans from splitting, cook over low steady heat.
  • Add salt and other acidic ingredients (like tomatoes and vinegar) once the beans are tender (especially if you’re having trouble with consistently tough beans).
  • Bean dishes are generally better the next day because they continue to thicken and blend their flavors as they cool. So if you want a great make ahead meal, beans are a great option!
  • Make a big batch of beans and freeze the extras for use at a later date.
  • If you plan to freeze beans, undercook them slightly (so they don’t lose their shape and texture as they thaw and reheat).
  • To freeze beans: Allow the beans to cool just to room temperature (about 1 hour), then place useable portions of the cooked beans into freezer bags or air tight containers with enough liquid (use the cooking liquid if available) to barely cover them (so they don’t get dried out or freezer burn). Make sure there’s room in the container for expansion of the beans as they freeze. Place in the freezer and keep for up to 3 months or so (6 months for a deep freeze).
  • To thaw and reheat frozen beans: It is best to thaw beans slowly so they don’t lose their shape and become mushy. Thaw in the fridge overnight if possible, in a pan of warm water, or in the microwave on the defrost setting (only if they are in a microwave safe container!). Once they are thawed enough to be removed from their container, put them in a saucepan with your choice of cooking liquid to reheat and finish cooking. Bring the beans slowly to a boil over about medium heat, then reduce heat and simmer for about 20-30 minutes, or until the beans are tender (depending on how ‘undercooked’ they were when you froze them). If they were fully cooked when you froze them, then cook them just long enough to reheat them.
  • Don’t cook kidney beans in the crock pot method. They need to boil first! (Red kidney beans contain a substance called phytohemagglutinin. It’s neutralized by boiling, but not by sub-boiling temps. If you eat raw or undercooked red kidney beans, you will be in for serious gastrointestinal trouble for the rest of the day, though it won’t kill you. White kidney beans don’t have as much phytohemagglutinin, but it’s still a good idea to make sure they come to a boil. Source.)

For other information on how to cook beans, click HERE.

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Food Storage: How To Cook Dry Beans

Alright, so I’ve been doing my research on how to cook beans. There are actually a lot of different methods. So many, in fact, that there’s bound to be one that suits just about everyone’s style and needs.

The basic “how to” process of cooking dry beans is pretty much the same regardless of which method you use: soak beans, cook in a liquid (usually with about a 1:3 ratio of beans to liquid) until tender, add seasonings while cooking (basic rule: 1 tsp of salt per 1 cup of beans), drain and eat. So regardless of how you choose to cook your beans, you can take comfort in knowing there’s not much you can do to mess them up if you stick with the basic plan. πŸ™‚ So let’s take a look at some different methods, starting with soaking.

Soaking Beans

There are three different ways to soak your beans. (Seriously?!) There’s a Long/Traditional Soak, a Quick Soak, and a Hot Soak. The purpose of soaking beans is to start the rehydration process and reduce the cooking time. Beans will double in size as they soak, so make sure you put in enough water to keep the beans covered. When beans are done soaking, be sure to discard the soak water and use fresh water to cook. This will help reduce the “gassy effect” beans can have. πŸ™‚

The Long/Traditional Soak Method is done by simply placing your dry beans in a bowl or jar, covering them with plenty of room temperature water, and allowing the beans to soak for about 8 to 10 hours, or overnight. (You should not let your beans soak for longer than 12 hours as they can lose their texture and flavor.)

The Quick Soak Method is very convenient for most cooks because it rehydrates beans in a little more than an hour. Simply place your beans and soaking water in a pot, bring them to a boil and boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and cover with a lid. Allow the beans to sit in the soak water for about 1 hour. Drain the beans to get rid of the soak water and then cook your beans according to your preferred method (see below).

The Hot Soak Method is apparently the “new and improved” method of soaking. It is a cross between the convenience of a quick soak and the benefits of a long soak. It is designed to help break down the sugars in the beans so that they are more easily digestible (reducing the gassy effect even further). For the hot soak method, add 5 cups of water for every 1 cup of beans to a pot. Bring to a boil and boil for 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and cover (same as the quick soak method) and allow the beans to sit in the soak water for 1-4 hours (4 hours having the better benefits). Then discard the water, rinse your beans and the pan, and return the beans to the pan with fresh cold water to cook as usual.

Cooking Beans

Let’s move on to how to actually cook our beans. There are a lot of different methods to choose from, but I’ll cover the three most basic or common: stove-top, crock pot, and pressure cooker.

Traditional/Stove-Top Method: The benefit of cooking on a stove top is that it cooks slow enough to allow the flavor of the beans and seasonings to meld and create a wonderful tasting dish. The down side is that you need to stick around during the cooking process, so it can take a chunk of time out of your day.

To cook beans on the stove-top, add your soaked beans to the pot along with the appropriate amount of water or broth (again, generally a 1:3 ratio of Β beans to liquid… just make sure the beans are covered with liquid by about 1-2 inches), you can also add a little oil or fat (1-2 tsp) to help reduce boilovers and add to the flavor, and add whatever seasonings you are using as well (although if you are constantly running into issues with tough beans, wait to add your salt until halfway through the cooking process). Bring your beans to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and cover. Allow the beans to cook until tender. This will take anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 hours depending upon the bean variety, but the average time for most beans is 1 to 1Β½ hours. Check the beans occasionally while cooking to make sure they are still covered with water (no beans should be peeking out of the water). If the water is running low, add more HOT water as it continues to cook. When the beans are done (you can test by either trying to mash one, or eat one), drain off the extra liquid and serve! (Or use in a dish and follow recipe directions for any further preparation needed.)

Crock Pot/Slow Cooker Method: The advantage to using a crock pot for cooking is that it is essentially a ‘fix it and forget it’ way to cook. However, you DO still have to keep an eye on these bean babies to make sure they are kept in enough water and that they are also receiving enough heat to actually cook the beans.

What appears to be one of the most recommended methods for cooking in your crock pot is to cook your soaked beans (with the appropriate amount of liquid and seasonings) on high for about 2-3 hours (you’ll need to monitor the water level in the pot and add extra HOT water as needed) and then reduce the heat to low and cook for an additional 6-8 hours (at which point they won’t need any special monitoring).
(Side note: When I cooked mine in the crock pot, I cooked them on low for the entire time and it took about 10-12 hours for them to be fully tender. I turned them on first thing in the morning and they were ready by the time I was putting kids to bed. So we ended up eating them the next day… which isn’t a bad thing because beans are said to enhance flavor as they sit anyway.)
Once the beans are done cooking, drain (reserve liquid if needed for further preparations) and serve.
*Important Note: You should NOT cook kidney beans in a crock pot because the heat does not reach a high enough boiling point to cook the funky toxin out of the kidney beans and you could end up with a serious stomach ache (or worse!).

Pressure Cooker Method: Now this is a method that I would LOVE to explore. Cooking anything in a pressure cooker speeds the process greatly, but when you’re talking about cooking beans in just 5-8 minutes, that seems insanely fast! I’m going to have to start looking for an inexpensive pressure cooker to try this out! (I have a pressure cooker/canner, but it is WAY too big to get out each time I want to cook some beans. Not to mention I’d probably have to cook about 10 pounds at a time in that bad boy to even fill the bottom! :)) So anyway…

To cook beans in a pressure cooker, combine the soaked beans, appropriate amount of water/liquid, and your seasonings (and oil if desired) in your cooker. (Do not fill it more than half full!) Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the following process: seal the cooker and bring it up to the required pressure. Then reduce the heat and start timing. Maintain enough heat to keep the proper pressure (the regulator should be gently rocking, about 1-3 times per minute). Cook for the shortest amount of time indicated on the bean cooking time chart (see image). Remove from heat and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for quickly reducing pressure. Once there is no pressure, open the cooker and test your beans. If they are not quite done, continue to cook on the stove, but without pressure. (Bring the beans to a boil over medium heat, then reduce heat and simmer. Place the lid on the cooker but do not seal it and do not use the pressure weight or regulator. Simmer for about 15-30 minutes until the beans are as tender as you would like. And next time you cook in the pressure cooker, just know to add another minute or two to the cooking time so that they will cook to the correct tenderness. :))

Cooking At High Altitudes: When cooking at high altitudes (generally anything above 3,500 ft), your cooking times for beans will increase significantly and can even double (this goes for the pressure cooker method as well). Experiment with the times a little to see what works for you and your altitude and then make note for future reference.

For more great information on beans, visitΒ Central Bean. It has an incredible amount of information, so check it out for more helpful hints!

*Whew!* And that’s a wrap!! Enjoy your beans!

Food Storage: My Adventure With Beans!

Alrightythen. So this week I actually did it! I tried my hand at cooking some dry beans. Holy PROGRESS! πŸ™‚ Before I could talk myself out of it, I just went into my kitchen, grabbed a quart sized Mason jar, grabbed some pinto beans, stuck a cup of beans in the jar, and then filled it up with water. I had absolutely NO idea what I was going to do with the beans, and NO idea of how to cook them, but I wanted to commit myself before I forgot about it. πŸ™‚ I left my beans overnight and in the morning they had swelled quite a bit. I drained the water and refilled the jar to give the beans a quick rinse, drained again, and then refilled with fresh water again. Then I put the beans into my crockpot and turned it on low. Again, I was still clueless as to what I was doing, but my SIL says she cooks her beans in the crockpot, so while I was in this crazy “what-the-heck-let’s-just-give-anything-a-try” mood, I decided I’d just throw them in there and see what happened. πŸ™‚

Well, they started cooking and I started thinking, “Hm… I should probably throw some sort of seasonings in there.” So at this point I finally jumped on my computer to look up some suggestions. (This is SO unlike me! I’m usually at my computer for hours researching stuff before I ever take a first step! I’m getting so brave! :D) Anyway, I found a recipe for refried beans that had some rave reviews, so I figured I’d work with that. I threw in some onions, garlic, cumin, salt, pepper, and let it finish cooking for the rest of the day. At the end of the day, I drained off the beans (and apparently you save the water you drain off) and just started mashing away. I added a little bit of the reserved water when they were looking a little dry, mashed some more, and presto-change-o! Refried Beans! Hubby was utterly impressed when he tasted them. He looked at me and clarified, “You made these from scratch? They taste just like refried beans!” (Ah… I love his faith in me. :))

The moral of this story is, if you have been afraid to cook with dry beans, go fill a jar and start them soaking RIGHT NOW! You can do it! (Trust me, if I can do it, ANYONE can do it!) πŸ™‚ Tomorrow I’ll share the recipe for the refried beans, and this week I’ll try some other types of beans or techniques. We’ll see how crazy I can get. πŸ˜€
Enjoy your beans!

Food Storage: Beans

Okay. It’s time. I’ve been putting this off long enough. I can’t put it off anymore. It’s time to talk about beans. Yup, beans. As in ‘Beans, beans, the magical fruit. The more you eat, the more you…’ uh, never mind. (Who came up with that saying anyway??) πŸ™‚
Beans intimidate me. Yes, I have multiple #10 cans of beans in my storage like a good little prepared girl, but if I actually had to USE them, I would be in a world of hurt. Not a clue. I know there’s something about soaking them, I know there’s something about cooking them, but after that… I’m blank.

Yes, I cook with beans (occasionally), but with the smaller cans of already prepared beans, which I love for their simplicity, but not their price. So I would really love to learn more about how to use dry beans because they are conserve a lot of space and cost a whole lot less! So we’ll get into that next week. But to kick off our BEAN lessons, I want to start with a bit of info I learned a while back as to WHY we should be eating beans.

I attended a ‘taster’s table’ meeting with the women at my church in which we had an enjoyable evening of tasting all the great things you can make with beans (a delicious corn salsa, soups, dip… things you would expect… as well as cookies, brownies, fudge, and a spice cake! …things you would NOT expect!) as well as learning about the pros and cons of the bean world. And as it turns out, there are plenty of reasons we should be eating beans! I left the night a converted believer in the power of beans. And of course, after all that bean sampling, I woke up the next morning a truly converted believer in the REAL power of beans. πŸ˜€

That being said… a word to the wise: Start Slow.

The Pros are so numerous: Beans aid in weight loss (enough said! Where do I sign up?!) because they fill you up; they reduce the risk of certain cancers (pancreas, colon, breast, prostate, and intestinal); lower bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol (and they have no cholesterol in them); lower the risk of heart disease; they are an excellent source of low-fat protein; they make a whole protein if eaten with whole grains, dairy, nuts or meat in the same day; they lower your blood pressure by relaxing the arteries and veins; and finally they are high in B Vitamins, potassium, calcium, and magnesium. Wow.
The Cons? Gas. This one stinkin’ (no pun intended) con is often a big enough deterrent to keep us from enjoying all the benefits beans have to offer. I will be the first to admit, as I mentioned before, I woke up the next morning after our activity with quite the rumbly tummy. Beans are not generally a part of my daily caloric intake, so my body did not respond positively to the sudden overload. There are, however, ways to thwart the harsh effects beans can have on our digestive systems:

  1. Start slow in your conversion process. Don’t just change your whole diet overnight. Allow your body some time to adjust to the effects beans will have on it, and hopefully soon your body will be able to keep up with all the beans you want! πŸ™‚
  2. Eat canned beans, or soak beans and pour off the water (add fresh water to cook), or pressure cook the beans. And,
  3. Add Bean-O to the top of your shopping list. It is apparently quite effective. You can get it as a pill (take one before eating), or a liquid (and a drop… or a few… to your first bite).

Or I guess there’s a fourth option too…

But who really wants to walk around with a clothespin on their nose? πŸ˜€

Anyway, like I said, ever since that meeting I’ve tried to be better about using beans in my cooking. But I still have so much to learn. So starting this week I’m going to work on learning about how to actually cook the dry beans, different methods, ways to use them, and I will of course be sharing all of this with you. πŸ™‚ So stay tuned and if you have any great suggestions, PLEASE SHARE! I need all the inspiration I can get when it comes to this area.
Good luck in your efforts, and don’t forget to eat your beans! πŸ™‚