Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Kitchen Tips: How to Cook Beans in the Crock-Pot
Whether they are served with breakfast, lunch or dinner, beans are included in a great many of our meals. I bought the canned varieties for years, because cooking my own sounded overwhelming. Little did I know just how simple cooking beans really can be. I make several batches of them all at once and then just grab them from my freezer whenever I am ready to use them.
First, I sort them. Just quickly look through the beans and make sure there aren't any tiny rocks or bits of anything else in there with them.
After the beans are sorted, pour them into the crock-pot. You don't want your beans to fill the pot more than about a third full. They will expand greatly as they cook. Now, fill the pot most of the way with water and cover with lid.
(Side note: Yes, I really do use all of these Crock-pots. I figure that the savings on my beans alone, justifies my having so many of them.) I cook up several different varieties of beans all at the same time, about every month or so, and then package them for the freezer. Did you know that in order to cook them for future use, you really don't need to season or do anything special with them at all? Just soak, cook and freeze. When you are ready to use them, that's the time to season and adjust them to your taste.
Soak the beans for 8-24 hours. I try to soak mine 24 hours most of the time. When you are ready to cook them, just drain the water, refill with clean water and turn the Crock-pots on to low or high depending on what works best for you.
I recommend cooking beans on low. I seem to get the best results that way. However, I have cooked them on high numerous times if I needed them to be finished in time for dinner that night. Either way works, just stay aware of how close to finished they are. It's easy to overcook when the beans are on high.
Different beans require different cooking times. Did you know that? I discovered the hard way when my great northern beans were consistently overcooked and mushy long before the black beans had even started to soften. I recommend cooking beans on low and after about 6-8 hours, start checking them every 30-60 minutes to see when they are soft.
Once they are cooked, simply pour them into a strainer and wait for them to cool. Once they are mostly cool, scoop them into freezer bags for later use. I store my bags flat in the freezer. When things are stored flat, it makes it very easy to thaw and use in just minutes.