Dried Beans: A Conspiracy From the Bean Lobby? - Live Like a Mensch
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Dried Beans: A Conspiracy From the Bean Lobby?

Photographic proof of the worldwide bean conspiracy courtesy of cookbookman17

About once every two or three years, I'll find myself in the bean aisle of the supermarket. Looking from the canned beans to the dried ones, I'll once again conclude that the lower price and sodium content in the dried beans means I really ought to be soaking my own instead of wasting my money on cans.

I'll take the beans home, follow the quick soak directions (which still takes a good three hours), and find myself eating crunchy beans and rice, or crunchy black bean chili, or crunchy seven bean soup at something like 11 o'clock at night, because of course I never leave myself enough time for the soaking.

At that point, I usually conclude that I'm doing something wrong with the bean soaking (specifically that I should be doing the long soak method instead), and that I'm not capable of planning far enough ahead to really utilize dried beans. I go back to buying the canned variety for another two or three years.

This pattern continued unabated until last week, when I once again decided that I needed to be buying dried beans. Dried black beans, to be specific.

So, after a late meal on Wednesday of cruncy black beans and rice, I decided it was time for me to finally try the long soak method. I bought another bag of beans, planned a delicious black bean soup dinner for Monday night, and set those bad boys to soak starting around 6 pm on Sunday evening.

At 6 pm on Monday evening, at which point our dinner guests had arrived and the soup was simmering and waiting for the beans, I drained my well soaked bounty and started pouring them into the stock pot.

Where they clinked on the bottom.

Yes, even after a 24-hour soak, my black beans were still crunchy.

I had to make a quick run to the grocery store (which, if you're keeping score at home, makes my third grocery trip in two days--and fourth if you count my wallet misadventure) so that I could get some canned beans of the proper consistency.

The truth is abundantly clear: dried beans are not actually edible. I believe they are some kind of tough pebble that bean growers somehow create in the bean-growing process. The bean lobby has figured out a way to market this waste product as a food source, by convincing people that it's possible to cook them. And when cooking doesn't work out, everyone simply assumes that they soaked it wrong or not long enough.

While I have heard some apocryphal stories about home cooks making dried beans in pressure cookers, I have decided that those stories are simply propaganda attempting to show that dried beans are useful for something other than mosaic art projects.

For me, I now know that it's worth the money to buy beans at the proper consistency in time for dinner. Because the alternative is just picking crunchy bean pebbles out of your soup.

Published Jan 29 2013, 04:12 PM by Emily Guy Birken
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maggie.glos said:

I make black beans once every 3 or 4 months. I soak about a pound in the crockpot overnight, drain, cover with water again, and then turn them to cook on low for 8-10 hours. After 9 hours or so mine are tender and I drain them, bag them, and freeze them. Works for me :)

January 29, 2013 9:44 PM

Karen K said:

I pressure cook them for that "quick" meal.  Couple times a year I can beans ... baked beans, bean soup & also just plain beans to use in meals like chili, tacos, etc.

January 29, 2013 10:43 PM

Thomasina said:

I've soaked beans over night - but I add them to the soup/stew/whatever right when I start cooking the soup/stew/whatever-- so the beans cook along with the soup/stew/whatever.    The beans are usually still firm after the soaking period - but once they've simmered for an hour or in the soup/stew/whatever they are tender.  

Maybe you are adding the beans too late in the cooking process?

January 30, 2013 12:54 PM

haverwench said:

Yep, those are pretty much the only ways I've found to use dried beans: slow cooker and pressure cooker. Although I've also heard that if you soak and then freeze them, the ice crystals bursting throughout the beans will soften them up, so they cook faster. But I've never dared to try it myself. (Lots more on the soaking of beans here: chowhound.chow.com/.../708232)

January 30, 2013 12:54 PM

Juneflower said:

I've simmered black beans 18 hours before, after soaking, and still had crunchy beans.  Two secrets to getting the darned things cooked are: 1-Buy them at the Mexican grocery.  The older a bean gets, the longer it takes to cook. The Latino stores have high turnover on all beans. 2-Use a pressure cooker.  My Cuisinart electric has been a blessing.  I can cook a pound of beans in 45 minutes, or cook serial pounds at 30 minutes and then can a full run of jars in the big canner. Third of two: Murphy's law rules.  Never cook black bean dishes for a party.  The 18-hr pot was for black bean salsa, and I had no backup dish available.  Embarrassing!

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