I've loved making most beans in the crockpot. So much more simple ...
Not long ago though, I read this entry on Lynn's Kitchen Adventures about soaking beans in a saltwater solution. Now, I've tried plain water and water with baking soda, but I've never tried soaking them in saltwater. In fact, my first thought was, "But 'THEY' say salt toughens the beans!"
Never one to be satisfied with leaving the intriguing alone, I decided to give it a shot. Now Lynn says 2 Tbsp. of salt to about 4 qts of water, but I don't have a bowl that big. My BIG plastic bowl only held the pound of beans, 2 Tbsp. of salt, and about 12 c. (3 qts.) of water.
This time, instead of cooking the beans in the crockpot, I cooked them on the stove. (They were the red kidney beans -- it's that whole funky toxin thing. I just feel happier knowing for sure that they boiled the requisite 10 minutes.)
The beans turned out fantastic! I have to admit that I was a bit surprised by this as this package of beans is SEVERAL years old. They weren't tough at all. Really, with this method, I had less waste. More of the beans softened. I threw 1 bean out. That's it -- out of the whole batch! The texture was perfect. I used some to make baked beans with and froze the rest.
THINGS I'VE LEARNED:
* Salt soaking the beans is a beautifully effective way to soften them up. Just rinse them after they soak and cook them as usual.
* Freezing the beans without any liquid works well if you are tossing them in soups or a bean salad.
* I prefer freezing the beans with a bit of liquid for most recipes. I've found that about 1/2 c. to 3/4 c. of the cooking liquid works out about right.
* Dried beans are not only less expensive, but they're easy -- especially if you cook up a big batch and freeze them ahead.