If you are one of those who think that making your own beans is a difficult task, put those thoughts away! There couldn't be anything easier to make. However they do require a long cooking time, (from 45 minutes to 2 hours +), depending on the variety, size, and how old they are... I bet you didn't know that older beans takes longer to cook? A good way to get younger beans is to buy them in bulk, as they tend to have a higher turnover, and therefore are generally fresher beans. Keep in mind that beans will expand during soaking and cooking, so a little bit goes a long way. A general rule of thumb is that most beans will have grown about 2.2 times in size after cooking.
Some planning is also needed as you need to soak them the night before, but really it's not bad. It will take you two minutes to take care of that, and only a few minutes of preparation time before and after cooking. Just make sure you are making them on a day that you have a few hours of leisure at home (while they simmer).
So why should you make your own beans rather than buying canned ones? Here's a few good reasons:
- Dried beans are less expensive than canned ones. Who doesn't like saving money on their groceries?
- Home-cooked beans are healthier. Unfortunately, 1/2 cup of canned beans can consist of 1/3 of your daily recommended sodium intake. You can decide how much, and what kind of sodium goes into your beans when making them yourself. Sea salt is a much better option than the processed table salt that you will find in cans, and you don't need to use as much as they do.
- Most canned food contain BPA (Bisphenol A), which has been associated with cancer, heart disease, and many other health problems. Organic dried beans will be free of chemicals, which right there, makes them a winner.
- Homemade ones have better texture and taste. The canned ones tend to be mushy.
- You can freeze them. That is a huge advantage, I suggest you make a big batch of beans and then split them into 1 cup portions and freeze them for later use. You can easily thaw them when needed in recipes and do not have to make them all the time.
- You can add flavors to them! By adding spices, broth, or seaweeds, you can subtly change their taste. Some of my favorites are: adding cumin to the cooking water for a spicier tone, adding a medium size piece of kombu (seaweed) to the water for more minerals, or simply cooking my beans in a nice vegetable broth instead of plain water.
HOW TO COOK BEANS
- Rinse and pick through the beans. Dirt, small stones, and who knows what else can come from the bulk bin. Give them a quick rinse in cool water, and then a look to pick out any cracked beans, as well as any small stones.
- Soak the beans. Put the beans in a large bowl and cover with cool water for a few hours up to overnight (I usually soak mine the night before so that they are ready to make in the morning when I get up). This will reduce the cooking time, minimize gas, and preserve the most nutrients.
- Cook the beans. Pour the beans into a wide pot and cover with about two inches of water. Add any flavors or spices at this point, just no salt yet, as salt will prevent them from absorbing water, and will slow down the cooking process. You can add sea salt towards the end, at about 3/4 of the way is fine, or once they are almost ready for more flavors. Place over medium-high heat, and bring to boil. This will bring the water to the top, and form a foam. Scoop off the foam.
- Reduce the heat, and simmer gently until they are tender. This will take anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the beans. The best way to know that they are ready is to taste test them, they should be tender but not mushy. Add water while cooking if needed, as they will absorb a lot of it.
- Remove from the heat. You can drain them to use in a recipe, or store them in an air tight container and keep in the refrigerator or freezer (with a little bit of their cooking liquid to save for later use). By the way, that cooking liquid is delicious as a "broth" in soups and recipes, I would personally not throw it away!
Let me know in the comments section if you have any questions.