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Friday, September 17, 2010

Another Take on Beans

Sometimes, it seems you can never do enough research!

Yesterday's post on bean cookery included the kinds of information that I have found to work best when preparing all kinds of beans. I knew of course that there were some differences of opinion on this whole topic.

Yes, I knew that there are times when pre-soaking is not necessary for black beans and even for pinto beans and a few others--the first time I ever had pinto beans cooked just by themselves was when an elderly neighbor in our mountainous VA community poured some into a pot with water and then sat down for an hour's chat over coffee.

And yes, Nanna's "recipe" included putting salt in the water right from the start. However, my own experience has been that beans in salty solutions (say, with a ham bone for navy bean soup) take a lot longer to cook than when all salt is left out. I have occasionally cooked beans without pre-soaking and still find that the total cooking time is shorter if I boil them for a few minutes and then let them sit for an hour or two before the final cooking.

But no sooner had I posted the information yesterday when I was made aware of something I have not tried but that sounds like it could change some of my habits:

Brining beans.

Actually, this would involve only one small change to the basic method I have been using for years, salting the beans (heavily according to some sources) during the pre-soak and then rinsing them and cooking them without salt for the remainder of the process.

When I saw that Cook's Illustrated endorses this approach, I knew I need to try it out, and I will be doing that in the next few days. Meanwhile, an update was definitely needed, to let you know there are, valid, alternative approaches to cooking beans. (Want to see a really intense discussion of this whole matter? Check out the following URL)

http://www.seriouseats.com/2010/02/how-to-cook-dried-beans-lentils.html


Bottom line, the message here is the one I like to share with anybody who steps into my kitchen:

Cooking is far more art than science, calling for flexibility and fun more than rigidity and worry.

Bon Appetit, no matter how your beans are cooked!

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