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Old 04-27-2009, 01:21 PM   #1
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Cooking Dry Beans - Problems

Greetings!
I'm having some issues - actually, I think several - with cooking dry beans. They are taking forever, and in the process, both losing their flavor, and taking on a slightly bitter taste!

The beans to which I refer were brought back from Mexico last year, and may simply be very old (I know, I know! But Mexico has fantastic beans - I guess you need to know where to buy them!). I'm assuming that is why they are taking so long to soften - I pre-soaked and have left them cooking now for more than 30 hours(!!!) in a crockpot - at this point, I just want to see if ANY amount of cooking time will soften them - it's kind of an experiment now.

My ingredients were: 2 cups dry beans; 6 cups water; 1/4 lb lightly cooked bacon; 1 cup chopped onions; 1/2 cup molasses; 1 small can diced tomatoes; 2 cloves minced garlic; 2 sticks cinnamon; 6 whole cloves; 1 Tbs dry mustard; salt/pepper.

But I think there are several things going on here - their flavor was best at the beginning of their cooking process, and has steadily declined since - and at this point, I'm not sure how much can be blamed on the beans themselves (a small, beige colored bean), and how much on my choice of ingredients, and how much on the fact that I'm cooking the hell out of all of this.

I've always had the notion that bean flavors improve the longer their ingredients meld at low cooking temp. But it seems that theory is being tested here, and I'd like to know why.

Any insight into this would be appreciated.

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Old 04-27-2009, 02:32 PM   #2
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The beans may in fact be old...If they are...It's almost impossible to cook them tender ---- Suggest you try some different beans...bought locally at a store with good turnover of product to assure freshness, and see if that solves that portion of your problem...Also I would suggest you cook the beans almost done, and add the other ingredients during the last hour of cooking to improve the flavor of the dish.....HTH

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Old 04-27-2009, 04:01 PM   #3
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If you brought them back "last year," no doubt they're old.

That's probably the issue.

Also, cooking with acidic ingredients like tomatoes and molasses prevent beans from softening.

I agree with Bob. Source your beans from somewhere that has high turnover and use them more or less right away.
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Old 04-27-2009, 04:20 PM   #4
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Is the crockpot simmering?
I never cook in a crockpot so can't help in that.
Are you living at a high altitude?
Beans take longer to cook at altitude.
It doesn't seem that a small can of tomato and
molasses should be introducing enough acidity to be the problem.

Just curious - how did you sample the flavor of the beans during the cooking as indicated in your post?
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Old 04-27-2009, 06:07 PM   #5
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I always cook my beans first, (after soaking), then add the flavor ingredients and finish cooking. I live at 5200 ft, they do take awhile, but not that long!
Yep, probably old beans. Did you use them all? If not, it might be interesting to cook some plain, without salt or acidity, see if they ever get soft.
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Old 04-28-2009, 07:32 AM   #6
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To soften beans I always use my pressure cooker before putting them in the crockpot. I live at about 4500 feet. I put them in my pressure cooker at 15lbs for about 10 minutes. It softens them up and they are ready rather quickly.

I for one do not like beans that are the least bit hard. The pressure cooker works wonders for dried beans.
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Old 04-28-2009, 01:51 PM   #7
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Many thanks for ALL your kind responses - much appreciated.

Yes, I think the beans may well have been old, maybe even much older than we could guess (they came from a small, local grocery in a rural village, howbeit, also an agricultural area). Question: how old do beans have to be to be problematic?

But on cleaning up the crockpot, I discovered another issue - the pottery crock itself had evidence of a "burn" area on one side near the bottom - so, it may be that even on low heat, the crockpot overheats in that one area, and introduces a burn flavor over time. Is this a problem with some crockpots?

Thanks again, folks.
john
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Old 05-01-2009, 07:54 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by drfugawe View Post
Many thanks for ALL your kind responses - much appreciated.

Yes, I think the beans may well have been old, maybe even much older than we could guess (they came from a small, local grocery in a rural village, howbeit, also an agricultural area). Question: how old do beans have to be to be problematic?

But on cleaning up the crockpot, I discovered another issue - the pottery crock itself had evidence of a "burn" area on one side near the bottom - so, it may be that even on low heat, the crockpot overheats in that one area, and introduces a burn flavor over time. Is this a problem with some crockpots?

Thanks again, folks.
john
John, sounds like your crockpot has come to the end of it's life. A good crockpot won't have any burn areas. Of all the crockpots I've had, 4--none of them have shown this issue. Hope that helps. Crockpots are easy to find at rummage sales and they aren't that expensive, I'd replace it personally. (and try to cook the beans in just water, then add seasoning later) ~Bliss
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