Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Dried Bean

Low in cost, high in nutrition, and rich in good, earthy flavors, dried beans are one of the best food bargains going. Cooking beans is easy and requires little attention, but you need to know the basics and plan ahead a little.

1. 1 cup dried beans yields 2 to 2-3/4 cups cooked beans. (1 lb. = 2 cups dried beans)
2. Use 3 cups of liquid for every cup of beans.
3. Beans keep for a week in the refrigerator after cooking - cook an extra cup for an extra recipe.

1. Cooked Beans - If a recipe calls for cooked beans, don't pull out your can opener, pull out your crock pot. To get 2 cups of beans (the same as a 15oz. can) put 1 cup well-rinsed beans in 6 cups water and add 1 teaspoon baking soda (it's alkaline--like meat--so it softens beans). Just before you go to bed, turn your crock pot on low and let them cook all night! In the morning you have cooked beans!

If you don't have all night, quick-soak the beans by bringing them to a boil for 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and let them soak for 1 hour. Then resume cooking.

Long-soaking has the beans in cold water overnight (to increase size.)

To cook soaked beans drain the soaked beans, add fresh liquid and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, until beans are tender. This will take 1 to 2 hours depending on the type of bean and their age. When the beans are tender add salt to taste. After the beans are cooked is the time to add tomatoes, lemon juice, vinegar, etc. These are all acid foods which hardens beans and should be added after the beans are cooked.

Fresh beans cook quicker, but even old beans will get soft. To cook old hard beans wash and sort to remove any discolored beans. Add 2-1/2 cups hot tap water and 2 teaspoons baking soda and soak overnight. Drain and rinse two times, then add water to cover and cook until tender and soft, about two hours, adding more water if needed.

Adding a tablespoon of oil will cut down on foam as beans cook.

2. Selecting Beans - Buy beans that are graded so they will be the same size, color, and age. Beans, peas, and lentils should have a bright uniform color. Loss of color usually indicates long storage, lack of freshness, and will take longer to cook. Eating quality is not affected by age. Cracked seed coats, foreign material, and pin holes caused by insect damage are signs of low quality.

3. Storage Tips - Dry beans, peas, and lentils should be kept in tightly covered containers and stored in a dry, cool place, 50 - 70 degrees F. After opening a package, they should not be mixed, preventing uneven cooking.

4. Beans and Gas - Eat beans regularly in small quantities. Then your pancreas makes the enzymes needed to digest beans. If you seldom eat them, you won't have the needed enzymes and you will get gas.

If gas is a problem try cooking your beans at a very high temperature and remember to discard the soaking water before you cook you beans.

(Source: West Jordan Oquirrh Stake "Basically Speaking" Cookbook)

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