Beans, as you may have heard, are magical. They are magical not because they give you gas (which can be avoided, FYI!), but because they are a low-fat, protein & iron-rich food that comes completely unprocessed from plants! Yay! They are also delicious.
I didn’t always like beans. In fact, when I was younger I pretty much avoided them as much as possible. I’m not sure what changed, but after preparing them myself for several years, they have become a staple in my diet. I even crave them.
If you only buy beans in a can, you are missing out. Not only is it WAY more expensive to buy them in a can, but they are also more processed and contain a lot more salt than is necessary. Most people avoid cooking their own beans from dry because it is so time consuming. Well guess what? It’s time to get over that. With a little thinking ahead, you can have your own beans that are ready to use at a moments notice WITHOUT using canned. The secret? Cooking & freezing beans in bulk.
Every 6-8 weeks I take about a day to soak, cook, & freeze enough beans in a few varieties to last us for the next 6-8 weeks. I usually freeze them in quart bags, which I lay flat in my freezer and they stack up quite nicely. When I want to use them, I just pop them out of the freezer, into the microwave on defrost, or right into a pot already cooking full of goodness on the stove. Ta da!
The method I use is simple. It is a little time consuming, but definitely NOT labor intensive. You just have to plan ahead a little bit. This method is the soak-rinse-cook-rinse method, and when followed, will DRASTICALLY REDUCE if not ELIMINATE the dreaded gaseous side affects from eating beans.
Place your dry beans in a bowl. Choose a bowl that is large enough that you only fill it about half-way, because when beans soak, they expand a lot. Cover the beans in cool water with about 1-2 inches of water above the level of the beans. Cover with a dish towel and allow to sit overnight, or for at least 10-12 hours.
When you come back to your beans, you will notice they have expanded nicely! Good job, beans! Rinse them thoroughly under cold water in a colander.
Put the rinsed beans into either a pot on the stove or a crockpot. Cover again with water, about 1-2 inches above the level of the beans. Season as desired. I usually add a little salt, garlic & onion powder. Cook until soft.
The amount of time needed to cook depends on the variety of the beans. Black beans are a pretty hard bean, and will take longer, whereas great northern beans or navy beans are much softer and will take less time. Be careful not to overcook them because they will become mushy in any dish you add them to. Unless you are making refried beans, then it doesn’t matter as much. It is usually about 1 hour. This is a great list of recommended cooking times for beans.
If cooking in a crockpot, you can put it on high for 3-4 hours, or on low for 5-6 hours. I usually have one variety cooking in my crockpot and another two boiling on my stove.
After cooking is complete, rinse the beans again in a colander under cool water. Rinsing the beans twice is very important for washing away the chemicals that give you gas. Rinse rinse rinse!!
Fill your quart bags 1/2 full and lay flat in the freezer. One of these bags is usually the perfect portion of beans for my small family of 3. The three staple varieties in my household are black beans, pinto beans, and kidney beans.
Give beans a chance! They are a wonderful food!