Hello Homestead: Cooking with Dried Beans

Sam Schipani at Hello Homestead has an article that explains how you should prepare your dried beans, storage, soaking, cooking – Here’s what you need to know about cooking with dried beans. If you are seasoned at using your storage foods, then there may be nothing new here, but if this is your first time pulling out that food that you got “just in case” or recently picked up some dried beans as desperately sought out foods for lockdown, then this is for you.

Red kidney beans. | Photo from Pexels

As the number of positive coronavirus cases continues to climb, citizens around the country have started stockpiling foodstuffs in preparation for the recommended social distancing, self-quarantine and self-isolation. A few nonperishables, in particular, have been popular in grocery stores — among them, canned beans.

Luckily, dried beans are generally available in bulk supply, in both conventional grocery stores and health food stores. If you purchased a bag of dried beans to stand-in for your usual canned counterparts, you may not know what to do with them.

Consider this an opportunity to open yourself up to the wonderful world of dried beans. Dried beans are cheaper, healthier and more sustainable than their canned counterparts. Plus, dried beans usually come in much more fun and tasty heirloom varieties than the canned offerings.

To make tasty, tender beans while avoiding any uncomfortable gas, here’s what you need to know about preparing dried beans from scratch.

Stored dried beans at Songbird Farm in Unity, Maine. | Photo by Linda Coan O’Kresik

1. Store them

First, make sure you properly store your dried beans leading up to the moment you use them. Dried beans left in their original grocery store packaging — generally, a thin plastic or paper bag — will dry out faster. Instead, store them in food-safe storage containers with a tight-fitting lid. Dried beans should also be stored out of direct sunlight in a dry spot kept at a cool temperature between 50 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. A cool pantry will work best.

2. Soak them …

Many dried beans need to be soaked before they are used to dissolve the starches that cause intestinal discomfort. The exceptions to the bean soaking rule include smaller and softer legumes, such as lentils, split peas, black-eyed peas and adzuki beans.

For all beans, pick through the beans and discard any discolored or shriveled beans, as well as any foreign matter such as stray pebbles or twigs. Rinse the beans well.

To soak, put the dried beans in a pot and cover them in a few inches of water. Let sit overnight in the refrigerator.

If you don’t have all night, you can also quick soak beans and get a similar effect. Put those beans in a pot, cover them with water and bring them up to a boil. Let the beans boil for a few minutes, then cover the pot and turn off the heat. Let the beans sit for at least half an hour in the hot water.

… or, maybe, don’t soak them

There are kitchen gadgets that can help you get around the soaking if you really want to. You could make your beans in a slow cooker in just a few hours without soaking overnight, or you could prepare dried beans in a pressure cooker (but don’t skip the olive oil — this helps reduce foam during cooking, which could clog the pressure valve).

The exception to these workarounds, though, is red kidney beans, which should always be soaked. They require a different cooking method to break down toxins in the bean. To make them more digestible, always soak first and then boil for 20 minutes before preparing in the slow cooker or pressure cooker.

3. Cook them

If you have chosen to use the regular soaking method, now it’s time to make those beans nice and creamy. First, drain and rinse your soaked beans, whatever method you wound up using.

Transfer them to another pot, then cover them in a few inches of water (the exact amount isn’t important). Bring them to a simmer, avoiding a boil (which will make them fall apart), with a dash of salt.

You may have heard that dried beans shouldn’t be salted until the end of cooking to avoid toughening the beans, but this is an oversimplification of the truth. In fact, some chefs swear that salting beans at the beginning of cooking and ending up with flavorful, tender beans. As a general rule, keep early salting light — most of the salt will be added at the end, after the beans have cooked through.

To give your beans a little more flavor, add aromatics such as onions, shallots, garlic, chiles or fresh herbs. The Bean Institute recommends a whole, quartered onion, a few cloves of garlic, and a sprig or two of fresh herbs like rosemary, thyme or a bay leaf, but you can experiment with your own mix of flavors. Lightly salt again after about an hour of simmering.

After another 30 minutes to an hour, your beans will be tender and edible (a quick taste test will help to make sure, but be careful not to burn your tongue). Turn off the heat and fish out any aromatics you used (keeping them in a cheesecloth bag is one easy way to do this). Then, season the cooking liquid to taste with salt and add any acidic ingredients such as tomatoes, vinegar or lemon juice… (continues)

Read the entire article at Hello Homestead by clicking here.

Hello Homestead: How to Prepare a Raised Garden Bed for Winter

This article from Hello Homestead includes a step on adding season extenders like the cold frames discussed in an earlier post. Getting that garden properly put to bed for the winter (or keeping it working over winter) is not accomplished by stopping gardening for the winter, much though that might appeal.

How to prepare a raised garden bed for winter

Photo by Gabor Degre

When the gardening season comes to an end, it is easy to get distracted from the pre-frost clean-up. Learning how to prepare a raised garden bed for winter, though, is essential to prepare for the season to come, even when spring is months away.

Throughout autumn, gardeners with raised beds should take several steps to ensure their garden beds are ready for next year’s seeds and seedling transplants.

“It’s an ongoing project,” said Kate Garland, horticultural specialist at the University of Maine Cooperative Extension. “I just always think of it as a to-do list for the fall.”

Properly caring for raised garden beds before winter settles in will promote soil health, ward off weeds and prevent diseases in next year’s crops. Here is how to prepare a raised garden bed for winter.

Step 1: Remove weeds

Photo by Gabor Degre

Weeding is essential well into the fall, even when the majority of your crops have stopped growing. Not only can untended autumn weeds harbor disease, but they can lay the roots for future weed problems.

“This is when people are ready to be done with weeding, but this is probably one of the most important times of year to be weeding,” Garland warned. “A lot of our weeds are setting seed right now. Some of the seeds can stay viable for 30 to 40 years or longer.”

For the parts of your raised bed that’s simply carpeted in weeds, cover them with black plastic or a layer of cardboard and leave it in place through the winter season to choke out existing weeds and suffocate sprouting weeds.

Some gardeners will till the soil to prevent weeds and expose harmful pests, but Garland suggests avoiding tillage in your raised beds as much as you can for the sake of soil health.

“There are some scenarios where [tilling] can make sense, but it doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense in raised bed settings [unless the soil is really compacted],” Garland said. “If you can avoid tilling as much as possible, your soil and your gardens will thrive in the long run.”

Click here to continue reading at Hello Homestead.