At least once a month, the waft of cooking beans fills our home. There are a lot of cooking and baking smells that I love, but beans slowly simmering for a couple of hours is probably in my top ten, maybe even top five list of most favorite smells. It’s one of those smells that envelopes you, like a warm sweater on a cool day. It’s both comforting and nourishing, and I find myself smiling more as it drifts from the kitchen into every other room.
When we do break down and buy beans in a can a part of me feels like I am doing an injustice to not only my wallet (more on that in a bit), but to the beans and myself, too. When you cook your own beans you control the amount of salt and other ingredients, as well as the tenderness. Cooking gives you control, and allows you to experience a more flavorful meal.
Usually when I do one of these Frugal Eats posts, I do a financial breakdown of how much it costs. I will do it again this time, but I will use only one type of bean as an example because oftentimes different kinds of beans can cost varying amounts. I will use kidney beans as an example, and I am referring to online grocery store prices, so you may find that the cost varies from your own shopping experience. Also be aware that these are U.S. products and dollars.
|Product||Amount||Price||Cooked Yield||Price/Cooked Ounce|
|Goya Red Kidney Beans, dry (bag)||16 ounces (about 2 cups)||$1.79||About 40 ounces (5 cups)||$0.05/ounce|
|Goya Kidney Beans, Premium Red, cooked (can)||15.5 ounces (about 2 cups)||$1.05||15.5 ounces||$0.07/ounce|
I bet I know what you’re thinking – you’re looking at that last column and wondering where the savings are because there is only a $0.02 difference. Well, if you were to purchase that bag of beans at the same price as the canned beans, it would be exactly a dollar more. Of course, if a dollar doesn’t matter to you, I am hopeful that taste (and smell!) does because it’s still so much better to keep that dollar to spend on some yummy ingredients and spices to throw into that pot of beans.
Of course, if your concern is that you have never made beans and think that making your own beans is hard, be happy in knowing that it’s not. It’s so easy, you can probably do it in your sleep (although I wouldn’t advise it!). Part of what makes it so easy is using a slow cooker, but even if you were to cook beans on the stove it would still be easy. That said, these instructions are for a slow cooker, so if you do not have one I recommend these posts on how to cook beans using a pressure cooker or cooking in a regular pot on the stove.
How to Cook Dry Beans in a Slow Cooker
- 1 pound dry beans (i.e. kidney, pinto, lima, navy, etc.)
- Water (I never measure, so bear with me)
The first thing you always need to get into the habit of doing is sorting your beans.
When you put all of your beans out on a flat surface, just pull a few beans at a time out and examine to make sure that nothing suspect is in your beans. Sometimes you’ll have a pristine batch, but sometimes you’ll find unrelated beans or wheat (not good if you’re gluten-free), rocks, dirt and even bugs.
After you have sorted your beans, put them in a colander and rinse well, using your hands.
You can then put your beans into a large pot or bowl, cover with water and let them soak overnight. Or, if you want to make your beans the same day, use this faster method which I use all the time.
Put your beans into a large pot and cover with about an inch or two of water (see, I don’t measure). Put it on the stove and boil for a couple of minutes.
After it has boiled for a couple of minutes, turn off the heat and let the beans sit for two hours. After they have sat for a couple of hours the water will be cloudy (in the case of the kidney beans, it’s a pinkish, mauve color).
Put the beans back into your strainer and thoroughly rinse them a second time.
Place your beans into your slow cooker, cover with about half an inch to an inch of water and cook on high for approximately one and a half to two hours. This time varies depending on what kinds of beans you are using, so you will need to check to be sure your beans are done before you remove them from your slow cooker.
(Notice that this is actually primarily a rice cooker, but I don’t even remember the last time we made rice in this thing! It’s perfect for making beans and steaming veggies.)
About half an hour or an hour before your beans are done cooking add in your spices and other ingredients. There are so many different ways that you can spice up your beans, so experiment. We really love spicing things up with onions and garlic, a little bit of cayenne pepper or tomatoes. It’s really up to you how flavorful you get. Stay tuned for a post on how I used these kidney beans!
Do you make your own beans? If so, do you use a slow cooker, pressure cooker or regular pot?