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Old 01-08-2006, 04:05 PM   #11
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I really second Andy's tip about the age of you beans. I've read time and time again that dried beans and pulses just aren't the same after a year. I distinctly remember one Italian cookbook saying something like "after a year, no matter how long you soak them, there's no bringing them back to their former glory".

It might not actually do much (I think I picked it up from watching relatives do it), but I like to rinse my beans in at least 3 changes of water after they've soaked. Interestingly, I've found that this sometimes helps to reduce any - shall we politely say - unwanted bean side affects.

Beans are generally very eccominical so if you are leery about the age, it may be better to buy new ones and either toss the old ones, or save them for kid's arts and crafts (or use them when you blind-bake a pie crust).
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Old 01-08-2006, 04:06 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Robo410
altitude and the ph of your water, along with age of the beans, have more to do with toughness than tomato or salt in your recipe.
Quite the contrary, acidic ingredients (those with pH lower than 7) and salt both inhibit the penetration of water into the beans. Tomatoes, tomato sauce and tomato products have a pH of between 4 and 5 while pure water has a neutral pH of 7. Filtered, distilled or soft water has a pH of between 5 and 6. Hard water with lots of minerals tends to be more alkaline with pH between 7 and 9.

The point being that adding tomatoes and tomato products, vinegar, wine and other acidic ingredients and salt have a great deal to do with the toughness of the beans and cooking time. I would not add any of them until the beans are tender or well over half way into the cooking process. That will give the bean a good chance to soften yet give plenty of time for the flavors to develop from the acidic ingredients and salt.

If your beans are older, i.e., have a moisture content of less than about 11%, you may wish to add baking soda to the soaking water to decrease the pH of the water to allow better water penetration into the beans.
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Old 01-08-2006, 08:12 PM   #13
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I know 5 hours sounds like a long time, but once I get the beans boiling, I lower the heat and let them simmer all day...generally about 8 hours. Remember, beans have a lot of fiber. I use more than a gallon of water, but then, I always make a BIG pot of beans, and I like plenty of juice to soak my cornbread in.
Sometimes I soak the beans, and sometimes I don't. But I always cook them a long time, because I like them to break down a little to make a thick, starchy broth.
Some beans just naturally stay firmer than others. But twice, I have run across some really old beans (my fault for not rotating my pantry properly), and they stayed hard as rocks. Even the dog woudn't eat'em.
By the way, if you ever run across any old beans in your pantry, and live in the country, don't dump them out on the deck thinking the birds or squirrels will eat them. I did that, and they sat there for several days.
Then my husband called me to look out the patio doors one morning, and there sat a fat little brown wood-rat, chowing down on them. As rats go, he looked fairly benign...nothing like those big black sewer rats. But I still didn't want him around. Kim went to get his pistol, but the rat scurried off under the deck before he could get back. Once Kim put DCon under the deck, we didn't see him anymore. I felt kinda bad...but Kim reminded me, where there's one, there's two...then more.
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Old 01-08-2006, 08:24 PM   #14
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Hey Thanks Everyone

Thanks everyone for the wealth of info, I truly appreciate it. Cooking them with another gallon of H20 did the trick, and now they're good. In the future, I'll boil them alone first; but I sincerely appreciate all the time that you folks put into your posts.

-slocooker
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Old 01-09-2006, 01:06 PM   #15
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This is a wonderful topic! And one I know little about, because I have the opposite problem, over-cooked navy beans. Mine always turn out "soup-squashey" while the ham is never well "cooked-in".
The ham is chunks of fully cooked picnic ham and all started at the same time. I have tried pre-cooking the ham before the mix, only to discover a loss of flavor.
Our altitude in Memphis, TN is close to sea level, so maybe I'll try adding a little vinegar at the start.
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Old 01-09-2006, 03:51 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chatwon
This is a wonderful topic! And one I know little about, because I have the opposite problem, over-cooked navy beans. Mine always turn out "soup-squashey" while the ham is never well "cooked-in".
The ham is chunks of fully cooked picnic ham and all started at the same time. I have tried pre-cooking the ham before the mix, only to discover a loss of flavor.
Our altitude in Memphis, TN is close to sea level, so maybe I'll try adding a little vinegar at the start.
Chatwon,

Are you starting with dried navy beans or are they canned? If they are dried, how long and how do you soak them?
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Old 01-09-2006, 04:58 PM   #17
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Great discussion. I see quite a few ideas here so I got out Harold McGee's " On Food and Cooking-the science and lore of the kitchen". He has quite a few pages on beans and what makes them.

The part that I wanted to know for sure is about when salt should be added. I always add mine art the start because I was taught that if you didn't the beans would be bland as salt can only enter the bean as the liquid is absorbed.

McGee backs this idea and further says that it speeds cooking when done in the soak portion. However he also says that doing so affects the texture and mouth feel negatively.

So what is the correct way to cook beans?
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Old 01-09-2006, 05:31 PM   #18
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Slocooker,
You may want to do a Google search for cooking beans. I found a lot of usefull info on one site. It said that hard water may be your problem. You could try usung bottled water to see if it makes a difference. It also said to thow out the soaking liquid to reduce the unpleasant side effects of beans.
Good luck
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Old 01-09-2006, 08:14 PM   #19
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Interesting post and replies. To me cooking beans is instinctive. Being Indian beans are a staple in our diet - everything from the tender varitey of yellow moong, green moong, black and orange lentils, split pea to the more hardier variety such as white urad, black urad, white garbanzo and black garbanzo. My pantry has more than a dozen containers of beans.

I have always soaked my beans in lots of water. I normally never measure the water. I put as much as I can and I always soak mine in a large bowl overnight.

Another gadget and to me that's not at all a gadget but a must for the cooking I do and in this age of soaring gas prices is a pressure cooker. I normally add the beans to a pressure cooker, cover it with water (for every cup of beans, 3 cups of water) and I do add salt but no acidic ingredients (like tomatoes). Someone already explained that they toughen the beans and that's what most Indian mothers preach as well and I follow that as well. I then cook them until they are tender (about 30 minutes). They are perfectly cooked everytime.

I season or temper them after they are tender and cooked.

If your beans are tough they are either very old or there is not enough water when you are cooking them. Without a pressure cooker some of the tougher beans can take close to 2 hours to cook even after soaking.

All the best and happy cooking.
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Old 01-10-2006, 12:34 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aurora
Chatwon,

Are you starting with dried navy beans or are they canned? If they are dried, how long and how do you soak them?
I start with dried navy beans, soaked overnite in a large pot of cold water. I sometimes change the water before bedtime and again in the morning.
My "squashey" beans get that way due to trying to cook-in the picnic ham flavor. I buy picnic hams on sale, cut them into chunks and freeze them for beans. The meat takes longer to distribute the flavor compared to say, smoked ham, but I am the frugal type. I first bring the pot to a boil and then add cummin, salt, a tsp rice, (for thickening) and Tbs flour, also for thickening. Then turn down the heat. My approach simply overcooks the beans, as I simmer them for several hours on the lowest gas heat trying to get all the ham flavor. I will try a little vinegar next time to see if this can help the overcooking problem.
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