Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Freezing beans

I'm on a multi-sided mission lately: trim out even more processed food, reduce waste, and reduce my grocery budget.  We already eat a pretty good diet that very rarely includes anything processed, so it's not hard to find substitution methods for those things we do buy in a package. 

We love beans of all kinds, and I recently decided to start cooking them from scratch more often.  However, dried beans take some forethought, and I don't always have things planned like I should, so I thought I'd try the freezer for another option.

As for the budgetary concerns, while canned beans aren't what you might consider expensive, it can get pricey if you eat them frequently enough.  One 15-ounce can is about $1.25 to $1.50.  They are about 3 times more expensive than dried beans, can be loaded with salt if you're not careful, and they add to the trash by being packaged in steel cans.  (Sadly, steel recycling in my city is not readily available.)  Plus, since canned beans weigh more than dried, it's more costly to ship them.

Dried beans to the rescue!  Using some tips I read online, I decided to freeze some portions of cooked dried beans.  Here's what I did.

This time around, I chose to make some pintos and some black turtle beans. I started with the requisite pre-soak.  I dumped each 1 pound bag of beans into a big bowl, covered them with about 2" of water, and left them on the counter for about 15 hours.  Normally the instructions say to soak for 6-8 hours, but I found that a much longer soak meant fewer burst beans and a shorter cooking time.

After that, I drained off the soaking water, gave the beans a rinse, and put each batch into a stockpot with a fresh 2" cover of water.  I brought each pan to a low boil, reduced the heat slightly, and simmered them for about 35 minutes until they were just barely done.  (A website suggested that a little underdoneness can help frozen beans retain better texture.)

Each pot was drained of its cooking liquid before being measured out into freezer bags.  Each pound of dried beans netted 2 pounds 6 ounces of cooked beans, which I divided into 3 portions.  I then made a brine of a cup of hot water and 2 teaspoons of kosher salt and added about a 1/3 of a cup to each bag, bringing each bag's weight to about 15 ounces, the size of a can of beans.

After being labeled, the bags were left to cool on the counter for a bit before hitting the freezer.

I kept out one of the 15-ounce portions of black beans so that I can make black bean soup tomorrow!  :)

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