Soaking Dried Beans

This year’s Mountain Men series starts next week. This Thursday evening they had a marathon of past episodes to get those of us who enjoy the show in the mood for the new season. One segment was where Eustace and Preston went into the woods looking for their sow and boar that had broken out of ‘a poor excuse for a pen’. They went on and on explaining how they wouldn’t get any new baby pigs if they couldn’t find this breeding pair, as if we didn’t already know that.

When they mentioned baby pigs, the first thing that popped into my mind was a scene from Lonesome Dove. The scene I’m thinking of is where they’ve loaded all their belonging into a wagon and are leaving Texas, heading for Montana to start a cattle ranch. If you’ve seen the movie, you know the scene. I always wondered what was in the Dutch oven that was wired to the rear axle and was swinging from side to side under the wagon as a couple of piglets scampered behind. I finally figured it out. They were soaking dried beans for supper that night. Prove me wrong!

If you’ve never prepared dried beans before, read on.

It doesn’t matter if you’ve purchased the beans from the store/farmer’s market or dried your home raised beans, the first thing you want to do is to thoroughly wash, remove foreign objects (stones, sticks, etc.) and bad beans from your mess of beans. Some people cook their beans without soaking them first, and then wonder why it takes so long and then end up with unevenly cooked, poor textured beans. The old standby has been to cover the beans with cold water and let them soak overnight in the pot. (See the example in my second paragraph). There is nothing wrong with this method.

The USDA has worked out a variation to this overnight bean soak. Add 3 cups of cold water and 1 teaspoon of salt for each cup of beans in the pot and let stand overnight as has been done in the past. The salt allows the beans to absorb the moisture more evenly which results in beans being in better shape and cooking more evenly. But, if you’re watching your salt intake, use the old overnight method or the quick-soak method.

What’s the quick-soak method you may ask. Imagine the circuit rider called and said that he’s coming to stop by for a visit as he’s missed you at services the past couple of weeks. You want to impress him at ‘vittles’ time with a mess of beans made from an old family recipe. Here’s what you do. After putting the beans into a large pot and covering them with water, cover the pot and bring them to a boil, cooking for 2 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and let stand, covered, for an hour or two. This method is equivalent to letting them soak for about 15 hours. Then use the beans in your recipe or as just plain beans.

Keep your fork

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