Jun 20, 2012

How to Properly Cook Dry Beans

Purchasing dry beans and cooking them yourself is a big way to save money and eat healthy. Many of my recipes include beans because they are an inexpensive way to get a lot of protein in your diet. Not only are dry beans a lot cheaper than canned beans, they are fairly easy to make; you just need to plan ahead. 

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"Legumes or pulses, such as beans, chickpeas, lentils, peas, peanuts and cashews, have nourished mankind for centuries. Throughout the world, they have served as the poor man's meat. The combination of pulses, whole grains, and a small amount of animal protein and good quality  animal fat is the ideal low-cost diet. Legumes are rich in minerals and B vitamins. Recent research indicates that legumes contain several anticancer agents. All contain both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Kidney and pinto beans are high in omega-3 fatty acids; chickpeas are high in omega-6 fatty acids." ("Nourishing Traditions" by Sally Fallon and Mary G. Eng, Ph. D. p 495).

According to Sally Fallon in her Nourishing Traditions cookbook, it's important to prepare dry beans properly in order for our bodies to digest all of their nutrients. "Such care in preparation ensures that legumes will be thoroughly digestible and all the nutrients they provide well assimilated, because such careful preparation neutralizes phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors and breaks down difficult-to-digest complex sugars." ("Nourishing Traditions" by Sally Fallon and Mary G. Eng, Ph. D. p 495).

Basic Dry Beans Recipe
(Adapted from Nourishing Traditions)

one 16 oz bag dried beans (about 2 cups) 
warm water
2 T lemon juice or whey
2 t salt

Check dry beans for stones. (I do this by pouring a little at a time into the pot). Place dry beans in a pot. Cover with warm water by about an inch and add the lemon juice or whey. Soak for 12-24 hours.

(Update: I just learned that beans soak more effectively when a warm temperature is maintained, so its suggested to keep them in a crock pot on warm, if possible, during the 12-24 hour soaking period.)

Drain beans and add fresh water to cover by about an inch. Stir in the salt. Bring to a boil or place in a crock pot on high. Reduce beans to a simmer. Skim off any foam that appears. Cook until the beans are tender, anywhere from 3-8 hours (depending on how long they were soaked and what kind of beans they are). Use beans as directed in your recipe, or divide into 1 1/2 cup portions (the amount in a standard 15.5 oz can) and freeze for later use.

I find that cooking beans in a crock pot is the easiest way to go. You just turn it to high and basically forget about it for a few hours.


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