Checking, soaking and cooking beans

I get organic beans from the bulk bin at my local food co-op. Some people think that’s crazy, but it works without fail for me. There are some allergy hazards in those bulk bin beans, though. I regularly find grains in lentils, particularly wheat, soy beans in my chick peas, and rocks and dirt in just about everything. The frequency of the hidden treasures varies, but I am allergic to wheat and soy, so it is always an issue.

Checking beans isn’t a new invention. I got the whole idea from the Sephardic Jewish custom to check their beans and rice for hametz before Passover and adapted it to my needs. Here’s what I do, everything from checking to cooking.

The checking

Using a 1/3 cup measuring cup, scoop the beans from the bag to a large white plate for checking. Go through the beans carefully 1/3 cup at a time, under a good light source, until you are sure there are no foreign or unwanted objects. If you try checking more than 1/3 cup of beans at once, it is easy to miss grains. If you find that 1/3 cup is too many to carefully check, try working with less. Tip the checked beans into a bowl, repeating until all of the beans are checked.

The washing

Take the bowl of checked beans and fill it with water. Agitate the beans with your hands and then drain the water. Do this until the water is clean, or at least twice. For beans that are really grimy, get them all wet with apple cider vinegar first, scrub and agitate them, then rinse, then proceed with the aforementioned water rinses.

If you are working with red lentils (lentils with the skin removed), that’s it. You are all done. Proceed to cooking them however you like, put them right in your soup, because you don’t need to soak them. That’s why we always are eating red lentils around here!

The soaking

Many people say not to use a metal bowl for soaking beans, but you might not have a big non-metallic bowl, or it might be busy doing something else. I don’t get too hung up on this, and I use whatever bowl or pot is available at the time. I just don’t use plastic.

I’m not so big on measuring, but I start soaking the beans with lemon juice. I put about 1/4-1/3 cup of lemon juice into the bowl of beans, mix them around in it, and then add water to just cover them. I let them sit this way for about an hour or until I remember them. I consider this lemon juice step optional, but it is what I do when I have safe lemon juice available.

Fill up the bowl with water and let the beans soak. If you did the lemon juice pre-soak, don’t tip it out, just add water to it to fill the bowl. Try to plan on soaking the beans for 24 hours. It is probably best to agitate and rinse the beans once or twice during the 24 hour soak. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. I good results either way. At the end of the soak, get your hands in the bowl, agitating, scrubbing, and rinsing the beans until they rinse clean.

The cooking

I put the beans in a stock pot, fill it with water from my Berkey filter and put it on a low flame. Be sure not to add salt at this stage, or you will get tough skin on the beans. I don’t add seasoning either, because I don’t want to waste it when I rinse the beans. I set the burner really low and take my time getting the beans up to a boil, then keep them at a rolling boil until they are cooked. It usually takes about four hours, give or take depending on the type of bean. Make sure they are thoroughly cooked, take them off the heat and tip out the water. Fill with cold water, agitate and rinse until the water runs pretty clear. From this point, the beans are done and ready to be seasoned and used in a recipe.

I hope this helps someone safely eat beans. It works for me. If you want to know all of the whys and hows please refer to this article on beans from the WAPF.


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