When it comes to nutritional value, perhaps the best plant-based food out there is not some exotic super food. In fact, for ages this food has been enjoyed among cultures throughout the world. And when you combine it with a grain, you make a complete protein – that is, you fulfill all nine of the essential amino acids necessary in the human diet. We’re talking about beans.
We have quite a few types of dried beans in our bulk department and are proud to include those of local Yoder Farm in Danby, Vermont. But before you can use dried beans you must bring them to a state which is suitable for cooking. That’s right, using dried beans more often than not requires a two-step process. But it’s easy and largely unattended! First, there is soaking and then there is cooking.
There are a few approaches you can take, but regardless of which you choose, the first real step is to give the beans a rinse to remove any dust or dirt. Then, pick out any damaged beans. Old beans will float to the top when placed in water and can be removed. As they absorb water, dried beans expand!
Dried beans tend to triple in volume once cooked.
One cup dried beans will result in about 2 1/2 cups after cooking. Or one 1/2 cup of dried beans is equivalent to one standard 15 ounce can.
Method #1: The Quick Soak
With the quick soak approach you place your beans in a pot and cover with water. Bring the water to a boil and simmer for two minutes. Turn off the heat, cover, and let sit for one hour. Drain. They are now ready for cooking. See below.
Method #2: The Long Soak
Like the name implies, this is the longer of the two methods. However, all you have to do is cover the beans with water and let sit for six to eight hours – overnight or while you’re at work for the day – are ideal, convenient periods of time. Afterwards, drain and cook. See below.
In a pot, cover the beans with plenty of water – much more than seems necessary. Dried beans absorb water and expand up to one to two times their original size. Bring to a boil and simmer until tender.
The amount of time varies greatly depending upon the age, as noted above, and size of the bean. Smaller and fresher will result in less time. Lentils could be ready in twenty minutes, for instance, without even soaking, whereas chickpeas, on the other hand, can take some time. But, in general, aim for at least an hour when you should start checking every 15 minutes.
To impart some really great flavor into your beans, try adding in a variety of fresh herbs, onions, broth or garlic to the pot. Avoid acids (like lemon or tomato) and salt until after cooking. These foods tend to break down the beans too quickly. Be sure that some liquid always remains in the pot as the beans cook.
When done, remove any aromatics, add salt and use however you prefer. The beans can be stored in their cooking liquid for several days in the fridge or several weeks in the freezer. So why not soak and cook a month’s worth of beans all in one shot?