Cooking Dry Beans

Cooking dry beans is rather simple, really, once you know the process.  Soaking your beans first is key to a better digestive experience.  Soaking also helps your beans cook faster, as they have already absorbed a nice amount of water and softened just a little.

All dry beans do better when soaked, even lentils. Most people say lentils and split peas don’t need soaking because they are small, but I believe they are better digested if soaked at least overnight.

Before cooking dry beans, my preferred way to soak each kind of bean is for 2-3 days. I know – that seems like a long time – but I find that there is much less in the way of intestinal discomfort and gas if I soak them longer.

So the process of soaking your dry beans goes like this:

Wash and sort through, removing any rocks, foreign material, or off-color beans.

Place beans in a large pan or slow cooker and cover with water 2-3 inches above the top of the beans. They will expand and soak up some of the water.

After 8-24 hours, you may drain and rinse the beans, adding fresh water for cooking or additional soaking.

Repeat 2 more times for the ultimate soak, rinsing and adding fresh water every 24 hours or so.

Note: I like to add about 1 tablespoon of raw apple cider vinegar for extra break-down of the enzymes that cause intestinal gas. I’ve heard you can also use the same amount of whey (the liquid that forms in plain yogurt), but I haven’t tried it.

Cooking Dry Beans

When ready to cook your dry beans, cover with fresh water (or other liquid such as chicken stock) 1 inch above top of beans. Make sure to add more liquid if needed. You don’t want the liquid to cook out and scorch the beans.

It’s best to only add a dash of salt when beginning to cook, as too much salt during the initial cooking phase can prevent proper cooking. I don’t know why, but salting heavily at first tends to prevent the beans from softening thoroughly. So, only a dash when beginning to cook, then add more once the beans are soft, tasting throughout to make sure you don’t add too much. Use no salt when soaking.

Bring to a boil in the stock pot (or turn on high for an hour in the crock pot).  For the stove top method, turn down the heat to medium and cover until beans are soft, then add salt and other seasonings to taste.  For the crock pot method, you can keep the beans on high for 4-6 hours or turn them down to low for 6-8 hours (depending on the size of bean).  Keep an eye on your beans and add more water as necessary during the cooking process.

Cooking Times of Dry Beans

Cooking times of dry beans vary with their size.  Larger beans like pintos, for example, will take longer to cook than smaller ones like lentils or split peas.

I find that soaking for a couple days before cooking dry beans makes them cook faster – another perk beyond improving their digestibility. If you can get used to planning ahead for when you need them, I think you’ll find (like me) that it’s not a hassle at all.

You can add chopped onion, garlic, a ham bone and/or chopped ham pieces to make the beans more flavorful.

If you have older beans, they may not soften readily after hours of cooking.  If so, you can add a pinch or two of baking soda.  This will bubble up and aid in softening your beans.

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Ratio of Dry Beans to Canned & Cooked

1 can of beans (15 ounces) =

  • 1/2 cup dry, uncooked beans
  • 1-1/2 cups cooked beans

1 pound dry beans =

  • 2 cups dry, uncooked beans
  • 6 cups cooked beans
  • 4 cans of beans (15 ounces each)

1 part dry beans = 3 parts cooked beans

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I have lots of great bean recipes in my 2 books, “Frugal Cooking With Beans

 

 

 

 

and Cooking With Food Storage: BEANS.”

 

 

 

 

They are currently available on Kindle only, but I may be having them in other formats in the future (if demand is high enough). Note that you don’t need a Kindle to purchase and read Kindle books. You can download a free app to read on your PC or IPhone.

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Basic Seasonings To Store

Preppers often have plans in place for their canned goods, their dry goods, their foraging plans, and water purification… but what about knowing how to store seasonings and spices?

Imagine going without something as simple and ever-present as salt. It could get pretty miserable doing without this basic seasoning, so make sure you plan ahead.

Average Shelf Life

For the most part, the ground spices you already have in your cabinets are pretty shelf stable. It takes most of us three years worth of autumns to get through that whole bottle of “pumpkin pie spice”, and it seems to survive that amount of time without issue.

Typically ground spices will be stable in their containers for about three years. Whole spices can go five or six – especially if the bottles are still sealed. That’s with little to no preparation though. If you take the proper steps, spices can last indefinitely.

You can usually tell if a spice has gone past its peak by doing a quick examination. Is it clumping together? Has the color changed? Does it smell bad, or perhaps not smell at all? If so, consider those spices spoiled, and restock.

Basic Seasonings to Store

Salt
It is absolutely vital that you have enough salt on hand. Our bodies and brains need salt to remain healthy, and we lose a lot of salt in our sweat, urine, and (worst case scenario) in our blood.

You can also use salt to preserve meats (such as salt pork), to pickle vegetables, melt snow and ice, attract deer and other wild game, and when mixed with water it even has a use as a gargle to help heal sore throats.

Black Pepper
You can store this either as whole peppercorns or as grounds. If you are storing it whole, make sure you have some means of grinding or pulverizing it later.

Oregano
Besides just spicing up your tomatoes, there are a few health benefits to having plenty of oregano around. The oil within oregano leaves have antibacterial and antifungal properties. Oregano also adds nice flavor to soups, stews, pasta dishes, and pizza along with the nutritional benefits. It’s a very easy herb to grow and generally comes back each year without replanting, even in colder climates.

Thyme
Thyme is another easy herb to grow and offers nice flavors to many dishes. There are also many varieties, including lemon thyme. Grow your own, stock up on store bought, or do both (like I do).

Cinnamon
This one can be stored either pre-ground, or as cinnamon sticks. What could be nicer than a bit of sugar and cinnamon mixed together in a survival situation? Your mental health is just as important as your physical health, and cinnamon is a great way to experience “treats” now and then.

Ginger
Again, you can choose to store this either as ground ginger, or as preserved roots. Ginger makes a nice, tangy food additive, in addition to a few medical advantages. Ginger is wonderful to have around in case of stomach distress. Any type of nausea, either as a result of food, motion sickness, or even pregnancy can usually be helped by ginger. It is also good to use in case of heartburn.

Other Herbs & Seasonings to Consider Storing

* Basil
* Dill
* Onion Powder
* Garlic Powder
* Chili Powder
* Taco Seasoning

The best rule of thumb is to store what you like and use on a regular basis.

Other Cooking Ingredients to Store

* Cocoa
* Sugar
* Flour
* Baking soda
* Baking powder
* Dry milk
* Canned milk

How To Store Seasonings Long Term

Spices are best stored like other dry goods – in sealed mylar bags, inside sealed food-grade buckets with O2 absorbers. It is usually best to store several small bags of spices in a single bucket, so that you do not need to expose a large quantity to the air at once. Keep in a cool, dry place up off the floor and out of direct sunlight. Spices do best at temperatures no warmer than 70 degrees.


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