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How to Cook Dried Beans

Yes, canned beans are handy, but they’re full of sodium. And they’re more expensive than even the fancy ones we get at the farmers’ market. A can of organic black beans is $1.39 at our grocery store. We bought a pound of organic local black beans from Cayuga Pure Organics this weekend for $4. After cooking, we got the equivalent of 4 cans of beans, which is $1 a can. Who says it’s more expensive to buy local?

Here’s my standard slow cooker process, which I have borrowed from Cook for Good. Keep in mind that it takes almost a full day to cook the beans. You won’t be doing much at all during that day, but you do need to think ahead. If you don’t have a slow cooker, cook them on the stove for 2 hours in step 2.

  1. The first thing you should always do with dried beans is to quickly sort through them. Some beans are much smaller and less developed, and these can be like pebbles. You want to get rid of them. There is also the possibility of finding actual rocks in with your beans. These can slip through the various sorting mechanisms at the packaging facility. They tend to be more common with small-batch producers (like ours), but it can happen no matter what the source. Here is a picture of our most recent rejects:

    Look out for rocks!

  2. Next, cover 1 pound of beans in water by at least a few inches. Every single time, I think I’ve used enough water, only to peak at them a few hours later to find them dry. Better to use more than you think you’ll need. Let them soak overnight (8-12 hours).

    It's best to soak dried beans overnight before cooking with them

  3. After the soak, drain the beans, rinse them, and dump them in your slow cooker. Add 6 cups of cold water and cook on low for about 7 hours.7 hours works well for us, but the exact time will depend on how fresh the beans are, how long they’ve soaked, and the variety. If they’re a little undercooked, turn the slow cooker up to high and taste every 30 minutes until they’re done. If they’re overcooked, make a dip and write yourself a note to try 6 hours next time. Our slow cooker is programmed for 8 or 10 hours on low, so we use a light timer to make sure the beans don’t get mushy. Once they’re cooked and the heat is turned off, they can sit in the liquid without much damage, so don’t worry if you can’t get home on time or don’t want to wake up at 5 am to drain the beans.
  4. I don’t usually need a whole pound of beans at once, so I separate the leftovers in zip-top bags and freeze them. 1 3/4 cup beans + about 1/2 cup of cooking liquid makes the equivalent of a can. Once they’re cooked and stored in the freezer, it’s hardly more convenient to open a can!

    Beans bagged for freezer storage

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