This is number 6 in what may be considered a series on dried beans. We’ve decided which types of beans to plant, grew our own beans, harvested, dried, stored and finally washed and soaked the beans in preparing them for use. Now, we have to simmer them until they are tender.
In generations past, our ancestors were urged to simmer their beans in the same water in which they soaked them. Today no one is quite certain whether to do the same or to use fresh water for simmering. To most people, the minimal loss of nutrients into the water during the soaking process doesn’t offset the better taste and less “musical fruit” problem when simmered in fresh water. If you are in it for the nutrients, and don’t mind the diminished taste and the gas, use the same soaking water for simmering your beans. Also, remember that the more times you consume beans, the more your body becomes accustomed to the extra B vitamins and fiber found in the beans (less music). I know that my taste buds can’t tell ‘used’ water from ‘fresh’ water and would bet yours can’t either. If you use a salt soak, the extra salt in the ‘used’ water may result in over salted beans. Some people taste the soaking water to determine if it is sweet or bitter. They will simmer in the soaking water if the taste is sweet and use fresh water if it is bitter. I guess the last word would be that it’s six of one and half a dozen of the other. Do what you want. There’s no right or wrong.
Where there is a right or wrong is adding baking soda to the simmering water. DON’T use the old trick of adding baking soda thinking it will speed up the simmering process. Baking soda will destroy the vitamins found in the beans.
Foaming can also be a problem when simmering beans. Add a tablespoon of butter or cooking oil to the simmering water or simply tilt the lid and lower the heat until the foaming stops.
A few things come into play when considering the amount of time to simmer the beans. Varietal differences, length of storage and dryness of the bean are the big three. Allow extra time from what the recipe suggests, just in case. The beans are done when the skins begin to break open and they are tender all the way through when you bite into them. Remember, the acid found in tomatoes, vinegar and wine slows down the cooking process, so add them last if time matters.
Keep your fork