to making stuff.

Beans the Magical Legume

phaseolus vulgaris

We currently have about 19 one pound bags, and 3.5 quart size jars of beans in my house. Yes, that is a bit excessive. How do you resist a grocery store closing sale when they’re 40% off? I obviously couldn’t. In fact, we started off with 11 bags and my husband went back and got the rest a few days later. We did give others a few days to buy them, but the other shoppers just weren’t interested in the beans!

I’m not sure why no one else wanted them, but I’m sure not complaining. Beans are a wonderful thing. Somehow they have a bad reputation, but I don’t pay that any heed. I like all kinds: black, kidney, navy, pinto, even black-eyed peas thanks to my southern husband. They taste great, they’re filling, you can put them in a million different dishes, and they are cheap.

Canned beans are really handy, but the best addition to your cupboard is a bag or two of dried beans (or 19+ if you’re crazy like me). You can get 2-4 meals out of a bag depending on how many people you cook for. Cook up the whole bag, and store the extra in your fridge for the rest of the week. Even when I was busy, working, and commuting 1 hour to work I still had time to cook beans.

On Soaking

pinto beansMany places you’ll find suggest to soak your beans overnight. There was a time (like a few weeks ago) that I would scoff at that idea. I generally prefer foods that I can just throw together without a lot of prep. I’d rinse the beans, toss them in my crock pot with water, and cook on low until they were done. Start in the morning, and you have beans ready for dinner about 8 hours later. Crazy easy!

What happened 4 days ago that I became a soaking convert? I cooked some black beans and they destroyed my crock pot. Oh the poor black beans were not the problem. Unfortunately over time the enamel had worn off my crock pot ceramic, and it can no longer be washed off. Remnant stains of those black
beans still remain on that pot, sitting in my kitchen waiting for a new life. Still not sure what I’ll do with it but I hate to throw it away.

I had a bit of a dull moment which I will blame on being a Mom to young kids, and being 5 months pregnant. I panicked; How the heck was I supposed to cook my beans?! How silly could I get? People have been cooking beans for long before I was born. Pot + heat = food. This is where I became the bean soaking convert. Rather than keep my stove on, with its precious costly propane fuel, for 1-2 hours longer than necessary I finally caved and soaked my beans overnight. They turned out great.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading about fermenting and soaking grains and legumes, and it turns out this isn’t just a convenient fuel saving measure either. It’s a great way to make your beans more digestible and mineral rich. The minerals were always there, but there is a component in the beans (phytic acid) that can prevent your body from absorbing it. Soaking will significantly reduce phytic acid and make them more healthful.

Don’t wait until they’re on sale! In my area a 1lb bag of beans is anywhere from $1.19 to $1.79 depending on the variety. For a significant protein source in up to 4 meals, that’s pretty good! This is something that you can stock up on if you do find a good price, though. Just be careful because their quality can deteriorate over time. I would recommend buying no more than what your family can eat in a 1 year period, unless you put them in more reliable storage than their plastic bags. Yes, we do eat enough beans to go through all those bags, I promise.

Cooking Beans

kidney beansIt doesn’t get much easier than this.

  1. Rinse beans, and cull out the cruddy ones or any rocks.
  2. If soaking, put beans in a bowl with warm/tepid water to cover by a couple inches. Let them soak overnight, approximately 8 hours. Even longer (up to 24 hours) is possible as well.
  3. Drain the beans.
  4. Put beans in the pot with enough water to cover and at least 2 inches of room. Cover and cook on high until the water boils, and cook on medium until done. Usually an 1-2 hours depending on the variety [Dried Beans – Cooking and Using Dried Beans for a cooking time guide].
  5. Do not salt! This can make your beans tough, and take longer to cook.

When cooking dried kidney beans, there is a risk of toxicity and getting sick. Make sure your beans come to a boil for about 10 minutes before turning the heat down to continue cooking.

Written on September 4, 2013 by Kristin (Yankee Girl).

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