We usually eat a bean-based meal at least once a week. I use chickpeas to make hummus, black beans for black bean burgers and taquitos, kidney beans for chili, pinto beans for crockpot refried beans and great northern beans for baked beans. I prefer to start with dried beans (rather than canned) in order to reduce waste and to eliminate potentially unhealthy additives. In addition to concerns over BPA in canned foods, canned beans often contain quite a bit of salt. Preparing dried beans take a while, so I prep them in large batches over the weekend and freeze what I don’t need in 1.5 – 2 c portions (the same size as a can of beans). Then I can grab what I need out of the freezer for quick weeknight meals. It’s really not any more difficult than using canned beans.
I usually purchase my dried beans from the bulk bins at Whole Foods. By using my cloth produce bags, I avoid generating any plastic waste. Sometimes, I do buy the bags of dried beans at the grocery store, but I find that the quality is not as good (i.e. the beans look like they got chewed up in a machine somewhere along the way).
Here is the method I use for soaking and cooking dried beans, based on the guidelines in Nourishing Traditions. Be aware that beans expand during soaking, so use a sufficiently large pot and lots of water.
- Rinse beans; remove any broken beans and other debris.
- In a large pot, cover beans with 2-3 x more warm, filtered water.
- Add a glug or two of apple cider vinegar.
- Cover and let sit over night (or up to 24 hours).
- Drain and rinse beans.
- Return to pot; cover with filtered water.
- Bring to a boil; skim off any scum that surfaces.
- Simmer gently for 4-8 hours until done, adding more filtered water as necessary.