Dried Beans–More Cooking Tips

Shelled beans at Abbondanza Farms.

Shelled beans at Abbondanza Farms

An earlier post explained several ways to cook dried beans.  While desk cleaning recently, I ran across an article with more bean-cooking tips.  It’s by John Broening, the owner of several seasonal and local restaurants in Denver and long-time Denver Post columnist.  I love John’s informative and down-to-earth articles, like “Winter Beans,”* where he sings the praises of his favorite comfort food, dried beans.  Along the way he shares two cooking nuggets:

  1. First, it may seem that dried beans are indestructible, and indeed they do have the advantage of a long shelf life.  But John notes that older beans have longer cooking times.  I’ve also found their flavor begins to diminish over time.  Of course it’s perfectly safe to eat beans that are a year or two old–no need to pitch them–but see if you can use them up in a year.  Not only does that artificial deadline  ensure better beans.  It will also inspire you to get more healthful beans into your meals–starting now!
  2. Secondly, John notes that our altitude makes stove top or oven cooking more difficult.  “Beans at altitude take twice as long to soften as they do at sea level and tend to cook unevenly.”  I’ve certainly found this to be true when cooking beans on the stove top.  Maybe that’s why a lot of people resort to canned beans.  Happily, I’ve not noticed this problem when cooking beans in the slow cooker, although I do have to use the “high” setting.

An electric pressure cooking is John’s solution for the altitude problem.  I’ve never used one, so let us know if you have experience to share on this point.  And in the meantime, give your slow cooker a try.  Although canned beans are perfectly fine, you’ll be amazed to see how flavorful beans can be when home-cooked.  No wonder John views them as the ultimate comfort food!

P.S. Why not make a bean dish tonight:  a white bean soup with kale, a red bean enchilada casserole, black bean burgers, garbanzo bean hummus. . . . There are so many options!

*from Edible Front Range, Winter 2009, p. 43

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