Thursday, September 15, 2011

Dried Beans Made Simple ...

Over the last several months, I've noticed that money doesn't stretch nearly as far; and sale prices don't sink nearly as low as they used to. At the same time, it is still much less expensive to buy real food than it is to buy convenience foods. Because of this, I'm slowly incorporating convenient ways to eat non-convenience foods.

The temptation to cook kidney beans on the stove fizzled quickly ...

For quite some time, I've heard that you can cook dried beans in the crock pot. (EXCEPT red beans/kidney beans-- they have a special toxin all their own and must be boiled for a certain length of time to kill it.) Until now, I've been too lazy to attempt it. With prices soaring, and having a large supply of dried beans, I decided that the time has come.

Beans, beans, beans!!

I decided on black beans (no red beans today), black-eyed peas, and baby lima beans. (I own three crock pots of varying sizes; why not use them all?) After scouring the internet for information, I began the process.

*Sort the beans. Things to look for are: anything non-bean, shriveled or ugly beans, little pock marks, or broken beans. Anything answering to these descriptions should be tossed. Where, you say? Anywhere but the bowl!

*Soak the sorted beans overnight in water that is just cool. (One or two sites that I looked at stated that cold water can actually cause the outer shell of the bean to toughen.)

*I soaked my beans in plastic bowls; I've noticed when I do this in my glass bowls or metal bowls, the beans sometimes take on a metallic taste. (Think chewing tinfoil on old fillings-- NOT pleasant!)

*I decided that the beans were soft enough when I could easily break them by pinching them between my fingernails. (No, I did not put those ones back in.)

*After soaking, sort the beans again. Remove any that float; I chose to pull out any that had not softened. (This was only a problem with the limas; the other beans all softened up fine.)

*Add the beans to the crock pot(s). Completely cover with water. I also tossed in some dried minced onion, minced garlic, and black pepper. I know it's tempting to add salt, but be strong! Salt will toughen your beans, and they'll never turn soft and usable.

Yes, my counters are that small. Three crock pots pretty well dominate the kitchen.
*Cook on low until bite tender. (I started mine closer to lunchtime and wanted them done by dinner. So they spent most of the day on low, but I turned them up to high about an hour and a half before mealtime.)

*One website suggested storing the beans in their liquid; the rest said to drain those beautiful beans. I took the easy road and drained the broth.

*Transfer beans in 1 2/3 cup portions to freezer bags or containers. This is the equivalent of one can of beans. (Remember that in recipes that call for the liquid from a can of beans, you will need to add your own. I would sub in water or chicken broth, depending on the recipe.)

*Seal them up, removing as much air as possible, and toss them in the freezer.

Bagged, flattened, and ready to freeze ... Do you like my crazy ancient linoleum in the bottom of this shot? Pretty sure it's older than me ...

I will definitely be doing this again. It was super easy, and the beans turned out pretty tasty (no tinfoil teeth here). We did add some seasoning and a tiny bit of butter to the ones we ate for dinner, but even my non-bean lover ate two bowlfuls. I've mentioned my disinclination to expend extra effort before, so I know you won't be surprised when I state that I bagged the beans in 2 cup portions instead of the recommended 1 2/3 cups. (I don't have a dishwasher; I'm all about going easy on the mess ... ) Even then, we still came out with three bags each of the black beans and black-eyed peas and four bags of lima beans. If I'd used the correct portion size, I could probably have made two more bags. Because they store flat, these take up far less space than the equivalent cans.

Linking up with:
Tidy Mom HandsMake-Ahead Meals for Busy Moms
Making Monday Marvelous Linky Party


Rachelle Lee said...

Thank you, Thank you!
I can't wait to try this.

Vicky said...

Like the idea. I have also been too lazy to do much with beans. I am a new follower from the Mommy Club. Vicky @