Purchase dried beans from a source with good turnover. When I’m travel to Tucson I love to stock up on dried beans from Native Seeds, who have a nice selection of beautiful beans (http://shop.nativeseeds.org/collections/beans) The longer the beans are on the shelf, the drier they become, and the longer they will take to cook. If you’ve ever cooked beans that just wouldn’t become tender, they were probably too old. Once you have them home, store them in an airtight container in a cool dark place.
Soaking dried beans reduces the cooking time and helps the beans hold their shape better during cooking. Although soaking isn’t necessary, the shortened cooking time cuts energy use, which is a good enough reason to soak. Spread the beans on a large baking sheet, and sort through them to remove stones or broken beans. Transfer the beans to a bowl and add enough cold water to cover by an inch or two. Let stand for 2 hours; longer will shrivel the beans. Drain before using.
For a quicker soaking method, place the sorted beans in a large saucepan, add cold water to cover, and bring to a full boil. Immediately remove from the heat and cover. Let stand for 1 hour, and then drain before using.
Cooks are divided over when to salt a pot of cooking beans. Some people believe that salting toughens the beans and thus lengthens their cooking time. Others believe that if beans are salted toward the end of cooking, the flavor is dull. So, in the interest of proper seasoning, go ahead and add a reasonable amount of salt at the beginning of cooking (about 1/2 teaspoon per cup of dried beans), as the add cooking time is minimal.
“Work With What You Got!”
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