Today I’m sharing how to make beans from scratch. Then once you have a big batch of beans, freeze them for later use.
When something has very little value, people will say that it’s “not worth a hill of beans.” One could take from this that beans themselves aren’t worth much.
Now, I don’t think whoever came up with this colloquialism was thinking of all that beans have to offer– fiber, protein, iron, calcium, and antioxidants. Instead, they were referring to how well you’d do in a trade if beans were your currency.
“Excuse me, miss. I’m interested in purchasing that Vitamix blender.”
“How much can you offer?”
“This hill of beans.” (sound of crickets chirping)
Even old Jack from Beanstalk fame was considered a fool by his mother for trading a cow for beans.
In this case, I’ve got to side with Jack’s mom. I’ve met some really awesome cows. What was he thinking?
Still, Jack could have worked his bean-bounty to his benefit, even if there hadn’t been a goose at the top of the beanstalk whose golden eggs he could steal…
(Wow, that fairytale is incredibly not vegan. I hadn’t noticed that before…)
But I’m getting distracted. My point is that beans don’t cost much. And when we’re looking to save cash while buying some nutritional powerhouses, beans in the bulk bin are a great way to go.
Admittedly, canned beans aren’t that expensive, but dried beans are where it’s at fiscally-speaking.
Let’s look at the numbers. While I could buy a can of organic beans for over two bucks, I could buy a whole pound of organic dried beans for $1.99.
There’s about a cup and a half of beans in a can. A pound of dried beans yields six cups of cooked beans.
So with the same two dollars I can get four times as many beans if I make them myself.
Man, I’m making myself tired. I was told there wouldn’t be any math.
Let me just cut to the chase. It’s cheaper to buy beans in bulk.
What’s more, canned beans often have a lot of sodium, and with beans you make yourself, there are no concerns over BPA.
(Although, Eden Foods is currently making their can lining without BPA. Whenever I do buy canned beans, I always buy Eden Foods, even if that means paying a little more.)
There are so many different beans to try, a person could eat her way across the bulk bins. But you should probably soak and rinse them first.
If you’ve never made beans from scratch, don’t be intimidated. It’s a pretty easy process and one worth mastering.
How to make beans from scratch
1. A bath before bed!
Buy a few cups of beans. Rinse them thoroughly, removing any debris. Then before going to bed, get your biggest bowl and soak the beans overnight in plenty of water.
Remember, the beans will expand. So it’s important to give them lots of water and room to grow.
2. Rinse and repeat…
Dump out the beans’ soaking liquid and give them another rinse.
The oligosaccharides from the beans have gone into the soaking liquid, and neither you nor your housemates want you to use that liquid for cooking the beans. Someone tried it once, and schoolchildren have been singing about it ever since…
Put the beans into a big soup pot. The rule is that for every cup of dried beans you should add three cups of water.
I have to be honest, though. I don’t measure.
I put the beans into my biggest pot, cover them in water, and then add a couple more inches of water after that. So far it’s worked out fine for me.
3. Add some pizzazz!
I like to add various seasonings to the pot – a big spoonful of cumin, paprika, and a vegan vegetable bouillon cube are my general go-to spices.
But you can play with it depending on how you plan to use the beans. You can even add a dash of salt, if you like. That old theory about salt making beans tough is just a myth.
If you have difficulty digesting beans, this is a good time to throw a piece of kombu, a type of seaweed, into the pot. About an inch will do. As a bonus, it will also add some trace minerals to the beans.
(Once the beans are done you can throw away the kombu. Think of it as an Asian bay leaf.)
4. It’s time to cook!
Bring the water to a boil. Once it’s boiling, lower to a simmer and cover.
Different beans have different cooking times, but I usually check on them at one hour. Check a bean or two for doneness and texture. Nine times out of ten my beans are done at that point.
Of course, leave them on and keep checking on them if they need more time. Some varieties of beans can take as long as two hours to cook.
5. Divide and conquer.
Once the beans are done, I divide them up into Pyrex containers for storage.
For storage, you can’t beat inexpensive Pyrex containers. They’re made of glass and therefore there’s no concern of chemicals leeching into the beans.
Pyrex can go in the freezer. It can go in the oven and the microwave. It can be used to carry lunch to work.
I like to divide the beans into different sizes of containers, giving me the freedom to easily use them in varying amounts later. When I only need a cup of beans, it’s so much nicer to grab a small Pyrex than to have to divide one that holds six cups.
After I’ve put beans into each container, I fill it the rest of the way with the cooking liquid, leaving room for the liquid to expand for those going into the freezer.
I like storing the beans in their cooking liquid because there’s a lot of flavor in it and it helps keep the beans’ consistency and texture. I put one container into the refrigerator to use that week and the rest into the freezer for later use.
6. Allow me to break the ice…
Once you’re ready to use the beans, you can move them to the refrigerator or counter to thaw. However, most of the time I just put the container into a colander and run water over it.
Once the container loosens from the beans, I run water over the beans until the liquid is gone and they have thawed. It only takes five minutes or so.
Now my beans-of-choice are ready to use in hummus, roasted chickpeas, chili, soup, falafel, bean salad, refried beans, tacos, burritos… And of course, red beans and rice don’t miss me!
* One final word to those worried about possible “side effects” of beans… And I’m not talking about its cholesterol-lowering benefits.
As we eat more beans, we become better able to digest them. This is because we develop an enzyme in our stomachs that can break down the sugars in beans. So as counterintuitive as it may sound, if gassiness is an issue, eat more beans.
If that sounds too risky for you, one thing canned beans have going for them is that thoroughly rinsed canned beans are more digestible. If all else fails, there’s Bean-zyme, a vegetarian version of Beano.