Soaking and freezing beans – while saving time and money

Everyone in our little family loves the different legumes out there. Chick peas, kidney beans, butter beans, lentils. You name it. They are yummy and so versatile to use once you get the hang of it. Still we have a tendency to go for the lentils and not so much the beans and the chick peas. The reason is a matter of time and preparation as they’re the only legumes (which I know off) that don’t require pre-soaking and cooking and therefore don’t require as much planing ahead. A skill I have yet to master.

Why don’t I just use canned and pre-cooked beans? 

Sure, I could use the canned and pre-cooked beans. And I do sometimes simply because it’s super easy. But other than being easy I don’t like canned beans because they are, well, canned. Recently a lot of cans with foods (organic included) has been found to contain bisphenol A on the inside of the can. Bisphonal A is endocrine disruptor that has been linked to tumors and developmental disorders. I’m not to keen of giving foods to Eva that contains this. I know, the amount she would be consuming would be small, especially compared to all the other things she is exposed to daily, but it all adds up in the end, and I would like to think that every little bit counts. And even if the cans don’t contain bisphonal A, they might still contain something similar, that has yet to be found to be harmful. Sometimes it’s just better to be safe than sorry.

Avoiding Bisphonal A is however not the only reason we’ve switched to dry beans. It’s cheaper and using dry beans also means that we’re able to control how firm the beans get and that we can avoid preservatives and unnecessary sodium. And in the end, it also means we don’t produce as much waste as we otherwise would.

Does that mean, that we never use canned beans? No, we’re still human, but it does mean that I’ve started to prioritize to buy dry beans and soak and cook them myself.

How to save time when soaking and cooking yourself

After I started working again, time has become increasingly important and I really don’t want to spend to much of it preparing food everyday. When I’m home and Eva is awake I want to spend as much time as possible with her and not with the pots and pans in the kitchen. So what do I do to save some time? I soak and cook the beans in bulk and then freeze them in bags or containers. I freeze in 240 grams increments (0,5 pound / about 3,5 dl / about 1,5 cup) as it is roughly the same amount as one can, making it much easier to follow (or make) recipes, but you can freeze them in whatever increment your heart desires. Freezing the beans is the best tip I’ve come across when it comes to beans and saving time! No more soaking and cooking for each separate dish!

Could you just not soak? I’ve seen different advice on this. Other than reducing cooking time the main reason why you soak beans it to make them more digestible (and you less gassy). For now I think I’m just going to soak those beans and be on the safe side, though in the future I might give it a go with black beans because of their thin skin.

How to prepare and store your beans

Ingredients:

  • Dry beans
  • Water

Tip: During the soaking and cooking the beans will absorb a lot of water and as a rule of thump, the ready beans will weigh 2,5 times as much as the dried beans.

This time around I decided to soak some kidney beans and chick peas.

Dried beans

A small assortment of the many dried legumes out there.

How to:

1. Rinse the beans thoroughly and sort out the odd pebble and dirt.

2. Place beans in a pot and cover with about 5 cm (2 inches) of water. You might need to add some more water if you’re soaking a lot of beans at a time, so make sure you use a big enough container.

3. Soak beans for at 12-24 hours in the fridge. Less could do, but not less than 8-10 hours. I usually soak for a bit longer, because that’s what makes sense in everyday life.

4. Drain the beans, discard the soaking water and rinse the beans with fresh water.

Tip: If very impatient or if you forgot to soak the beans before going to bed, you could opt for the fast soak. This means bringing the beans and water to a boil and then boiling them for 2-3 minutes before removing them from the heat and covering them, letting them sit and soak for about one hour. 

5. Bring to a boil and then boil the beans at a simmer until they are tender. Usually it takes 1 hour, but it can vary quite a lot, so be patient. Black beans usually only need to be boiled for 30 minutes. Most beans will be done after an hour, but sometimes, especially if the beans are older, it can take 2-3 hours. The simplest way to make sure the beans are done is to try one. A good quality pot can also make a difference in how much time it takes. If it’s to thin, the heat might not spread equally (with the sides being cooler), and the beans in the middle will cook faster.

6. Take the beans of the heat and let them cool down in the water. Just so you don’t scald yourself packing the beans.

7. Drain the water and divide the beans into containers. I pack the beans in portions of 240 grams (0,5 pound / about 3,5 dl / about 1,5 cup ) as it’s the same amount as a standard can (at least in Denmark). I try to freeze them in reusable containers, but I have to admit that I often end up just using plastic bags instead. If you cook a lot at a time it can be a good idea to label your containers with a date.

8. Transfer your beans to the freezer, and you’re all set. The beans should keep up to six months.

I might sound like a lot of work, but really it’s not. Especially if you’re cooking anyway. I like to cook and freeze the beans on days, where we’re at home anyway and don’t have many other plans than relaxing. That way I don’t feel stressed out if the beans need an extra half an hour or more.

 

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Packing the cooked beans and peas in can-sized portions.

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