Sunday, April 18, 2010

How to Cook Dry Pinto Beans

Pinto beans are a staple food in many parts of Appalachia. (In my neck of the woods, they are "soup beans" and not "pinto beans", by the way.) Beans have suddenly become hip during recession times because they are a cheap source of protein. Many people are intimidated to cook dry beans from scratch but they really are better for you as canned beans tend to be high in sodium. Dried beans are also much more economical since you can buy a pound of beans (13 servings)for a little more than the price of one can (3 servings).

Step 1: Measure out your beans using 1/4 cup per serving as your guide. (I usually plan on two servings per person, to be honest.) After you've measured the beans, inspect them for tiny rocks or bad beans. In the picture below, the rocks are on the left. No one wants rocks in their beans!

Step 2: Pour your rock free beans into a sturdy stock pot. Cover with a couple of inches of warm water.

Step 3: Turn the heat onto medium and bring the beans to a boil. The beans will float to the top. Let boil for 3 minutes, then cover, remove from heat and allow to sit for one hour.

Step 4: After an hour, rinse the beans in a colander. Pour out the dirty bean water and wipe out your pot. Be careful! The beans and the pot will be warm.

Step 5: Now it's time to get serious and start cooking. Return the beans to the pot and cover with a couple of inches of water. Season with salt and if you so choose, with meat flavoring. Baked ham bits are wonderful but I usually use bacon since I always have it on hand. If you want to totally veg out, you do not have to add any meat flavor.

Step 6: Bring the beans to a boil on medium high heat. Reduce heat and cover. Let simmer for 1 and 1/2 to 2 hours. Stir occasionally just to make sure the beans aren't sticking to the pot. Beans are like pasta in that some people prefer a soft bean while others prefer more "bite". I recommend a taste test after about an hour and half of cooking. The big thing you want to look out for is making sure there is liquid in the pot. If the liquid all boils away, the beans will burn. You can cook these as long as you want as long as you keep adding more water. You will be able to tell when the beans are nearly done because they will take on a "softer" look.

This is the quick method of cooking dried beans. You can also soak the beans (after you've searched for rocks!) over night, rinse then pick up with Step 5 if you choose.


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