~ Quick-Soaking Dried Beans vs Overnight Soaking ~
There is always a method to my madness and occasionally it includes writing a post about a method, a technique, or, an ingredient . It's easy for anyone to take a pretty photo, write a list of ingredients, hand out a six-pack of instructions, and, send readers on their way. Unfortunately, if you've ever taught a cooking class, you know you can't do that. If you write a blog that teaches people to cook step-by-step, you REALLY can't do that. I can't do that. Today is such a post.
Dried beans, peas and lentils are mature beans that are dried and removed from their pods. Unless you've been living on another planet, you've eaten beans in some form or another, and, you know that unless they come out of a can, they need to be cooked prior to eating. In fact, even if you were tempted to eat the dried ones, the moment you put one of those little rocks in your mouth you'd know it was a bad decision. Beans have been around a long time, having been cultivated around the world for more than 7,000 years. Here in North America, our Native Americans cooked them in clay pots and served them with maple syrup and bear fat -- which sounds yummy, and without a doubt in my mind, that was a precursor to Boston baked beans!
I like beans, and I won't lie, I'm not a snob when it comes to cooking with canned beans. They are a most appreciated, time-saving convenience. My pantry contains a nice variety of beans, both dried and canned. Like all conveniences, pound for pound, canned beans are more expensive than dried ones, but they hardly fall into the category of "pricey". Plus, when I only need a cup or two of cooked beans to toss into a salad or a soup, I'm reaching for the can without hesitation (small quantity = canned beans). Both canned and dried are healthy. There is little nutritional difference between canned and dried beans either, except for sodium content: canned 450 mg./dried 0 mg. They both contain about the same amount of fiber, protein and calories. Just because they are fat free, does not necessarily make them diet food. It pretty much comes down to flavor, and, on that point, when taste tested side-by-side, dried beans win!
The #1 reason to not use dried beans exclusively is: time.
(And, no matter how you soak your beans, they still need to cook for 1-2 hours after that.)
For the best taste and texture, dried beans need to be softened prior to cooking them and that requires soaking -- 12-24 hours of soaking. Soaking beans also helps to remove any indigestible sugars, and, in some cases (especially kidney beans) toxins. The process is not hard. Just sort through them to pick out any shriveled or broken beans, and, sticks or stones. Give them a quick rinse under cold water, place them in a pot and cover them with tepid water for 12-24 hours. That's that.
Don't loose any sleep over it!
Just realize, once the beans have soaked, they still need to be cooked -- even if you're just adding them to a salad, they are not ready to eat.
Finish cooking will take another 1-2 hours, depending upon the size & variety of the beans.
Transfer them to a large pot covered by about two inches of fresh water (or directly into simmering stock, a soup, a stew or whatever dish you are preparing). Slowly bring them to a boil, skimming any foam from the surface (if and forms), adjust heat to a simmer and cook until the beans are cooked through to their centers and easily pierced with a fork.
Cooked, cooled and drained beans will keep in the refrigerator for 3-5 days, or, they can be portioned and frozen. Aside from chick peas, which I add to salads and make hummus with regularly: soaking, cooking and freezing beans just for the sake of having them on hand is a waste of time and freezer space, although I understand why beanaholics and vegetarians do it.
(And, no matter how you soak your beans, they still need to cook for 1-2 hours after that!)
The reason I am writing this post is: I found out yesterday that some people do not know there is a short cut to bean soaking: quick-soaking. It works so well I completely stopped soaking beans overnight over 20 years ago. Yesterday I got a call from my bachelor-father cousin in NJ. He qualifies as a foodie and we chat about recipes for him to make for his teenage daughters a couple of times a week. I picked up the phone because I saw his name on the "Caller I.D.", and I said, "Vic, I'll call you back in 5 minutes, I'm quick-soaking some kidney beans." When I called him back, he asked what "quick-soaking" was. He had never heard of it. In my food world, "where there is smoke, there is fire", in which case, I write a blog post!
4 quarts cold water
2-3 teaspoons red pepper flakes (optional)
~ Step 1. Place beans in a large colander and sift through them with your fingers. Remove any broken ones or anything that looks foreign. Rinse under cold water.
Note: The alternative to this is to soak the beans conventionally, in 4 quarts of lukewarm water and optional red pepper flakes, 12 hours or overnight, in the covered stockpot, and skip the following simmering process:
I estimate every 1 minute of simmering equals 3 hours of soaking.
~ Step 4. Remove beans from heat, cover and set aside for 3 hours. This time will vary, depending upon the type of beans. They should be tender through to the center with a slightly-grainy texture. I find three hours off the heat ideal. They will get creamy during the final cooking.
~ Step 5. Drain into colander. Return to stockpot, cover with 2" of fresh water, return to a simmer and cook for 1-2 more hours, adding additional water or stock to the pot, if necessary during the process. OR: Drain into colander. Place in a food storage container, cover and refrigerate. Add to specific recipe as directed, making sure they have plenty of liquid and 1-2 hours to finish cook.
Quick-Soaking Dried Beans vs Overnight Soaking: Recipe yields about 10-11 cups of soaked beans. Do the math: 1 pound of dried beans (depending upon type and size), yields approximately 2 1/3-2 1/2 cups dried beans. 1 pound of dried beans after soaking (depending upon type and size), yields approximately 5-5 1/2 cups of soaked beans. I soaked 2 pounds of kidney beans today for a total of 10-11 cups.
Special Equipment List: colander; 8-quart stockpot w/lid; 1-quart measuring container
Cook's note: For those of you who love garbanzo beans (chick peas) as much as I do, be sure to click into Categories 1, 14, 15, 17 or 20 to read ~ Hummus... Yummus. Nothing Ho-Hum about this! + (How to: Cook Chick Peans & Roast the Garlic too!) ~.
"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2014)