April 07, 2007

Ask the chef: pre-soaking beans for crockpot cooking

"Becky's Mom" writes:
I have a question you're probably going to think is crazy. I have some dried pinto beans that I forgot to put on to soak until a few minutes ago. I want to put them in my crock-pot over night. Will they be okay not soaking for 24 hrs. prior to cooking them?

Dear Becky's Mom,

Don't worry... even if you do it 'wrong', it's nothing a little Beano can't fix... :-) but I'll tell you how you can handle this predicament next time.

People argue back and forth over which method of handling beans before cooking gives the best results: boiling or overnight soaking. To me, the method that works best is the one you use... so if you don't have 12 hrs to soak 'em, boil 'em!
Overnight soak: Wash and sort beans; place in large sauce pan with 6 cups of water per pound of beans. Let stand overnight (10 hrs or longer)
Quick soak: Wash and sort beans, put in a large saucepan with 6 cups of water per lb of beans. Bring to a boil and keep boiling for 10 minutes. Remove from heat, cover, let stand at least 1 hour. (but don't let them cool, )
You don't want to use the soaking/boiling water to cook the beans (why would you ingest the liquid that contains all the stuff you just soaked out of the beans?!) but you can use it to water plants. The soak water will have a good deal of vitamins and minerals in it, and your plants won't fart.

By the way, what does sorting mean? Sorting means that you pick over the beans and take out the floaters, remove any pebbles & twigs & other debris that might find its way into dried beans. Crunching on a rock in the chili is not my idea of a good time.

How do I know if the beans are done? Many people don't cook their beans long enough. Depending on the age of the beans, you may find it takes 30 to 60 minutes longer than what the recipe calls for. The way to test for doneness is to pull out a bean and mash it with a fork. If any of the insides seem white and crumbly, rather than soft and moist, then the beans need to be cooked longer. Add some more liquid and replace the lid, then test again later. Undercooked beans are nasty, and may even be toxic!

Suddenly, I have a craving for crêpes with green tea ice cream and red bean paste (sweetened adzuki beans, comes in a can from the Asian market - YUM!).

Last thing I ate or drank: Breyer's raspberry popsicle.

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