Why cook beans from scratch over buying canned?
Cost: a 16 oz. bag of dried beans yields about 5 or 6 cups of cooked beans, while a 15 oz. can of cooked beans yields about 1 1/2 cups. That's a no brainer...
Quality: Besides the cost savings, beans cooked from dried seem to have a "better" texture than the canned versions. Sometimes when I am making a soup or my corn-avacado-salsa (cowboy caviar?) the beans come out of can already mushy! Not so when you cook them from dried!
Control the additives: Salt, and other additives, you get to control how much gets added into the beans.
Time Savings: I know, I know, you think I am crazy on this one! But beans freeze beautifully! So cooking up that bag of beans, using that 1 1/2 cups you would have used from the canned version in your recipe and then dividing the rest into portions and freezing them, means you already have the next set of beans read to go! High five!
Jan's Tips before you get started:
Pre Soaking: This is debated a bit whether to pre-soak or not, but the main reason is to speed up cooking time. It usually will cut it down by about 30 minutes if you pre-soak the beans.
But caution, the older the beans, the longer it takes to cook, so buy them from a busy store that has frequent stock coming in. No bulk buying from a "close out " grocery on dried beans. It's not worth it.
Plan on soaking your beans overnight in water if you are going to cook them the next morning/day, or if like me you work all day, soak them in the morning, and let them soak at least 8-10 hours and
then you can cook them later that night.
Salt or not to salt: It used to be said to never put salt in your soaking water that it would "toughen" the beans, but a recent article I read in my local newspaper, shared that Cooks Illustrated Magazine uncovered recently that salting the soaking water actually tenderizes the beans, but they also absorbed some of the salt which then seasoned them, So I salt my soaking water, but you can leave it out if you like.
Rinse your beans after soaking. Do NOT cook the beans in the soaking water. They will be less "gaseous" if you cook in fresh water. Trust me on this one.
The one tip to remember is that acids such as tomatoes and vinegar will prevent beans from cooking properly, and should only be added at the very end of the cooking. (So in a soup recipe, don't add those tomatoes in till right at the very end) or those beans will never be an edible, tender consistency.
OK, Let't get cooking: Below is the standard stove top method. I'll share the crock pot method after that ,but some of the steps are the same, so read the stove top method too.
Master Recipe for Cooking Dried Beans
Stove Top Method:
1 lb. or 1 16 oz bag dried beans
3 tablespoons PLUS 2 teaspoons salt divided
1 medium onion, quartered
1 medium carrot cut into 4 pieces
1 celery rib cut crosswise into 4 pieces
2 garlic cloves crushed
Sort through the beans. Pick out any pebbles, then rinse and drain the beans.
In a large pot dissolve 3 Tablespoons of salt into 4 quarts of water. Add the beans and stir.
Cover beans and soak overnight or 8-10 hours at room temperature.
At end of soaking time, drain the beans and rinse them thoroughly.
In a large pot combine the beans wit 7 cups of cold water.
Stir in the remaining 2 teaspoons of salt.
Bring the mixture to a boil, skimming the scum that rises to the surface with a slotted spoon.
Reduce heat to a simmer and keep skimming the protein scum that rises from the beans until no more comes to the surface.
Add the onion, carrot, celery, and garlic and simmer an additional 30-60 minutes, or untio the beans are just tender. (Start checking at the 30 minute mark, and see if one is tender enough).
Drain the beans. (Reserve the liquid if you desire for soups or "broth"). and discard the vegetables.
Use the beans as needed in recipes or freeze in 1-2 cup portions in freezer safe containers.
Crock pot Cooking Dried Beans:
Soak the beans as directed in stove top directions above.
Rinse and drain beans.
In a crock pot, combine the beans with the 2 teaspoons of salt, onion, arrot, celery, and garlic.
Add enough water to cover the beans by 1 inch.
Cover and cook on high 4-6 hours or until completely tender.
Drain the beans.
Use the beans as needed in recipes or freeze in 1-2 cup portions in freezer save containers.