Saturday, February 1, 2014

In the Kitchen :: Dry Beans

Homegrown 'Hidatsa Shield Figure' beans soaking.
One way we have tried to be more savvy in the kitchen is by utilizing dried beans.

It has taken us some getting used to the routine--remembering to start soaking the beans the day before, keeping a variety of dry beans stocked--but now it is a staple in our kitchen (and pantry).

 As I find, over and over, with these sorts of food and homesteading goals you have to have patience and keep trying until your goal becomes a habit. Changes to your food lifestyle, whether it's beans or eating more veggies don't come without challenge and often there is some spoilage in the process, it's okay.

Why cook dry beans? Initially I believe we wanted to incorporate more beans because we ate a low meat diet, so this was a way of incorporating more protein, but there are so many good reasons.

Cooking a mix of heirloom dry beans.
Dry beans fit the budget. They are very economical. Buy them in bulk and you may be able to buy a pound of beans for the cost of 4-5 cans of beans! Don't forget to check your local farmers' market in the summer for local dry beans too.

Reduce packaging waste. Those bulk beans have a lot less packaging. You can put them in whatever cool jar you have around the house, or even make them a decorative item in your kitchen.

We store our dried beans (store bought or homegrown) in ball jars, or other
reused jars. Easy to see what you haveand pretty! You can often bring
these containers to refill right at your co-op.
Reduce your sodium intake. Canned beans have higher amounts of sodium. An alternative is Eden brand canned beans which contain no added salt, instead they use kombu seaweed.

Avoid BPA. Many canned goods have bisphenol-A  (BPA) in their can linings. (Eden does not.)

Use them for any meal. Breakfast burritos, salads, soups. Which makes them a great item to make if you do a prep day over the weekend for weekly meals.

They are pretty hands-off. Throw some dried beans in a bowl and cover them to soak--ignore them until its time to cook them. When it's time to cook, drain the beans, then throw them in a crock pot with new water--ignore them until they're done!

Here are a few resources for your future adventures with dry beans. If you have any favorite tips, tricks or recipes share them in the comments!

Dry beans headed for the pantry.

Making the Basics: cooking with dried beans
Tips for making beans easier to digest
Heirloom Dry Beans
"Add Salt When Beans Are Just Barely Tender: Adding the salt at the beginning of cooking can sometimes prevent the starches in the beans from breaking down, so they'll be a little over-firm even after long cooking. The best time to add the salt is when the beans are almost finished cooking. When they are tender enough to eat but still too firm to really be enjoyable (aka, al dente), add the salt."

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