Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Salt Will Keep Your Beans from Softening

Did you know you shouldn't add salt to your beans until they are softened?  That's right, adding salt to your beans when you start cooking them will inhibit the softening process. The salt actually prevents the starches in the beans from breaking down, thus producing a hard bean. Beans are a superfood! They are high in fiber and protein and rich in anti-oxidants, and because they digest at a slower rate than their protein counterpart - meat, they keep you full longer and that makes them great for your waistline.  Beans are so versatile and it's another food staple that I think people, in general, tend to shy away from. I have found that the best way to prepare dried beans for cooking is as follows:

  1. Soak beans overnight in water. At least 8 hours or more. The ratio I use for the soaking is 2:1 (2 parts water to 1 part bean)
  2. If possible, I like to change out the soaking water a few times.
  3. Never cook in the soaking water. Discard and and rinse your beans.
  4. Place your beans in a stock pot or dutch oven. Add enough water or unsalted stock to cover beans about an inch over top of beans. You can add aromatics, such a onions, peppers etc., but NO salt.
  5. Bring your beans up to a rolling boil. Then reduce the heat to keep them at a simmer. Don't try to rush beans by cooking them at a high setting, it just won't work. Skim off any foam from the surface. If you want firmer beans, leave the lid off, for softer, creamier beans leave the lid on, at least that is what my mom always said and it works.
  6. Allow to cook 1 hour, then start checking the stage of tenderness your beans are at every 15 to 30 minutes. Time varies with beans so it may take some time. The size, age and type of bean really does affect cooking times -  so be patient! It's important to keep the beans submerged in liquid so be sure to add more water or stock as needed.
  7. Add salt when the beans are just barely tender.
  8. Continue cooking until beans are softened and creamy. Add more salt as needed or to taste.
Did you know:
  1. Dried beans are way more economical than the canned version. One pound of dried beans yields roughly 5 cups of beans!
  2. Beans freeze very well.  Place inside a freezer safe container or in a zip bag and you have fresh cooked beans at your disposal at any given time. 
  3. If you are using just the bean, for say a salad or in recipe that requires only the beans, DON'T throw out the cooking liquid.  This stuff is culinary gold! You can use it in soups or to create your very own original sauce. 
  4. You can use your slow cooker to cook your beans. Just set it on low for 8 hours, making sure to check at the half point on the tenderness so you can add salt.  I've not had the best success cooking them on high for 4 hours, I just think beans are persnickety in general and love that long cooking time.
  5. If you don't have time for an overnight soak, you can use the quick soak method. In a large pot or dutch oven cover your beans by about 3 inches. Bring to rolling boil. Let boil for 1 minute. Cover, remove from heat and set-aside for 1 hour.  This method works but it's not best for all beans. Especially garbanzos and red kidney beans, at least that has been my experience.

1 comment:

  1. Grandma told me about keeping the cooking liquid from the beans. Can't wait to try that liquid!