How To Prepare Low Octane Dried Beans
Dried beans are one of the most economical foods you can prepare, but many people resort to canned beans for convenience, or just because they've never learned how easy dried beans are to use. I'd like to show you why dried beans are better for you, and how they can be an easy, ready-to-use part of your everyday cooking. And, I'll share my tip for making your beans "low octane," if you know what I mean.
Three Reasons Dried Beans Are Better Than Canned
1. You control the salt. Canned beans are high in sodium which almost always comes from highly refined table salt. Start with dried beans so that you can control how much salt is added and make sure it is a high quality, mineral rich salt, like Celtic Sea Salt.
2. Bisphenol A (BPA): Bisphenol A is a chemical found in the plastic lining of most food cans. It readily leaches into the food contained in the can. BPA is an endocrine disruptor that can mimic estrogen, contributing to certain cancers, birth defects, and insulin resistance. (source)
3. No Additives In Dry Beans: Calcium chloride, maltodextrin (or high maltose corn syrup), and modified food starch are common ingredients in canned beans. Learn to prepare dry beans so you know exactly what's in them (and what's not).
Some people will tell you there's no need to soak beans prior to cooking, but soaking them solves a few problems.
Problem Number 1: Flatulance.
Gas is embarassing. But when you're taking beans, you've got to deal with reality. I've found that giving beans a long soaking time - usually about 48 hours - reduces digestive problems, ahem, gas, to almost nil.
Problem Number 2: Phytic Acid.
Beans are high in the antinutrient phytic acid, or phytate, which grabs on to the minerals in your meal and carries them out before your body is able to use them. Soaking beans effectively neutralizes the phytic acid so that your body can absorb the minerals you're eating.
Problem Number 3: Cooking Time.
Well soaked beans take much less time to cook.
How To Soak Beans
- Measure the beans (optional). A rule of thumb is that beans double in volume once they're soaked. So if you start with 4 cups of dry beans, you'll end up with just a little more than 8 cups of soaked beans.
- Next, sort the beans to remove any small stones, debris, or clumps of dirt. If you've never used dry beans before, this may sound like a time-consuming task. But it only takes a minute or two. I use a bowl and a plate. Spread a half cup or so of the beans on the plate, shuffle them around so you can see them all clearly and make sure there are no stones or any other debris. Once you're sure, pour the beans into the bowl and repeat with the remaining beans.
- Place the beans in a bowl that will allow for them to double - or even triple - in volume. They may need the extra space.
- Cover the beans with plenty of water and a splash or two of lemon juice. (This acidifies the water to help remove phytic acid.)
- Soak for 12-15 hours at room temperature, adding more water if you need to.
- Drain and rinse the beans, refill the bowl with fresh water, and allow the beans to soak until they've had a full 24 hours.
- This next part is what really makes these beans work out better. Your family and dinner guests will be much more "comfortable" (hint: not gassy) if you keep the soaking going for a minimum of 2 full days. Drain, rinse, refill, and soak the beans again, changing the water every 12 - 15 hours until your beans have soaked for 48 - 60 hours (2 - 2.5 days).
Give the beans a final drain and rinse and they're ready to use. 1 cup soaked beans = about 1 cup cooked beans
Foamy Bubbles During Soaking & Cooking
It's normal for bubbles to form on the top of the bowl while you're soaking your beans. At the beginning of the soak, this bubbly foam contains all kinds of antinutrients that are coming out of the beans. Toward the end of the soaking time, bubbles signify that your beans have started a natural, healthy fermentation or pre-digestion that will make them easier on your body. As you drain off the bubbles and rinse the beans, you're rinsing away gas that the body would otherwise pass on its own. We call these pre-soaked beans "low octane" for their decreased "gaseous-potential." When you cook the beans, more foam will come to the top. Skim this off too.
Freezing Soaked or Pre-Cooked Beans
If you tend not to plan your meals days in advance, you may appreciate frozen pre-soaked or pre-cooked beans, ready when you need them. Store your soaked beans in pre-measured containers in the freezer, or keep them all in one zip top bag and knock it on the counter to break up the frozen beans and measure out what you need. You can also freeze beans that you've already cooked, but you definitely want to store these in pre-measured bags or containers because the extra liquid makes the beans stick together in one frozen lump.
The Problem Of Crunchy Beans - Solved
It had always been easy for me to cook beans. But when we moved to the country, all of a sudden I seemed to loose the touch. I could simmer a pot of beans all day long, and they wouldn't soften. Even after hours and hours on the stove, I still had hard, crunchy beans, and I couldn't figure it out. Later I learned the secret: soft water. You need to cook beans in soft water if you want soft beans. So if you have hard water, add a pinch of baking soda to the cooking water when you start a pot of beans. It will soften the water enough that the beans will become tender.
How To Cook Your Pre-Soaked Beans
To cook your pre-soaked beans, add them to a pot with enough water to generously cover, salt the water (optional), and add a pinch of baking soda if you have hard water. Bring the water to a boil and simmer over low heat until they're tender, about 20 - 30 minutes, skimming the foam that rises to the top once or twice.
9 Ways To Use Beans
These are some of the simple ways our family likes to use beans. What are yours?
- bean salad (Our favorite is made with quinoa and lentils.)
- beans and rice
- baked beans
- burritos and tacos
- chili - add cooked beans to any chili recipe (white cannellini beans are nice in white chili)
- hummus - use chickpeas for an authentic hummus