Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Cooking and freezing beans

Cooking and freezing your own beans is a double win: you save money and avoid the yucky BPA-lined cans. Woot!

It's simplicity itself--you just boil water--but, y'all, I still managed to mess it up the first time I gave it a go.  Seriously. I put way too much water in the cooking pot, things boiled over, and it was an absolute disaster to clean up. But I forged ahead! And it went much better the next time!

Now it doesn't take much thought at all. The basic formula: rinse, soak, cook, freeze.

Rinse: Pick through and remove any rocks or funky beans (split skins, discolored, shrivelled). Rinse with cool water.

Soak: Most beans need to be soaked before cooking to soften them up. The exception are some of the softer beans: lentils, split peas, black-eyed peas. Put into a large bowl and add enough water to cover the beans by 3-4 inches. Ignore for 6-8 hours.

(If you don't have 6 hours to spare, you can do a quick soak on the stove. Bring the beans and water to a boil, remove from heat, cover and let stand for 1 hour.)

Cook: When the beans are happily soaked, drain and change out the water. For every one cup of dried beans you started out with add 3 cups of water. (Thirsty little garbanzo beans need 4 cups of water per one cup dried.) Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer:
  • Black-eyed peas - 30 min.
  • Navy beans, pinto beans - 45 min.
  • Lima beans - 1 hour
  • Kidney beans - 1-1.5 hours
  • Black beans, garbanzo beans (chickpeas) - 1.5 hours
It's better to undercook them slightly, if you'll be using them in recipes. When they're finished (bite into one if you want to double check), drain and let cool a bit.

Freeze: Pack into pint-size baggies or freezer-safe containers. A scant 1 3/4 cups equals a 15 oz. can. The bean experts say beans keep about three months in the freezer.

Each bean is a wee bit different, but one pound of dried beans makes the equivalent of about three 15 oz. cans, sometimes four. Such a deal!

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