Monday, October 22, 2012

Bean Soup

     I've been anxious to try cooking my home grown dry beans so I made some bean soup tonight.  I didn't do anything fancy.  I just soaked a cup of Rockwell beans for about six hours. I would have soaked them for 24 hours, but I was a bit impatient.  I was amazed at how quickly they cooked.  I had  heard that old dry beans take much longer to cook than fresh dry beans.  I had never cooked with fresh dry beans to see just how much difference there was.  After the six hour soak I boiled the beans for a half hour and then let them simmer while I was busy juicing grapes with the steamer juicer.  By the time I finished juicing the grapes I noticed that the beans were done.

    I made a fairly simple soup. I added 1/2 chopped onion, a few chicken bouillon cubes, some minced garlic, three or four slices of cooked chopped bacon, and some black pepper. I cooked it just enough longer for the onions to be done.  Linda and I both thought it turned out pretty wonderful. Most of the pretty color of the Rockwell beans disappeared with the soaking.  What little color was left didn't last through the cooking. They looked pretty much like any other cooked white bean.
Bean soup, very simple and very tasty, 

    There seems to be a diversity of opinions as to the proper way to soak dry beans.  I read a book entitled The Resilient Gardener last summer.  It is sort of a sustainability/organic/survivalist gardening book. It is devoted to the subject of raising five specific things that a home gardener in the maritime northwest could use to provide all of their own food supply in difficult times. Those five things were potatoes, beans, corn, squash, and ducks.  Obviously, a significant portion of the book was devoted to growing, harvesting, and cooking dry beans. The author, Carol Deppe, advocated the same soaking method for cooking beans as she did for planting beans, that is a 24 hour soak with several changes of water.  I have soaked legume seeds overnight prior to planting for many years. I have not changed the water several times during soaking.  Carol Deppe is a plant breeding expert so she is pretty specific when it comes to methods of growing, storing, and planting seeds. She also eats a great deal of beans and claims that the longer soaking time greatly reduces the amount of gas produced when the beans are eaten.

    In the past, I have mainly relied on the method of soaking and cooking dry beans that I found on the labels of the cans of dry beans we got from the LDS dry pack cannery.  That method is very simple and  works very well.  The beans are sorted and rinsed. Then one pound of beans is boiled for two minutes in eight cups of water. The beans are then soaked for one hour, then drained and rinsed. Finally the beans are cooked for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. This method has the major advantage of being quick. You could decide you would like beans for lunch right after you finish breakfast and you would still be able to pull that off.

   I can't say for certain that the longer soaking time reduces the gas effect, as I haven't given it a fair trial. However, this particular batch of bean soup didn't seem to have the usual effect.  Possibly that came from a longer soaking time. It could also be that I didn't eat as much of the soup as normal. (Linda wanted me to save her some for lunch the following day).  Since I harvested about a gallon of dry beans this fall,  I should be able to figure this out before they are gone.

     Carol Deppe offers another helpful suggestion as to how to reduce the gas produced by eating beans.  In her opinion the main problem is that we don't eat beans often enough. Thus our individual digestive tracts are not properly adapted to eating beans. We don't have the right mix of intestinal flora that would develop if beans were part of our every day diet. In other words, we get gas from eating beans because we only eat them once in a great while.

    As I stated above, the fresher the dry beans, the easier they are supposed to cook. Another important factor is the water.  My grandparents (Guy Dudley Tunnell and Linnia Sylvia Lee) lived on a farm near Mystic, Iowa. I have wonderful childhood memories of time spent on their farm.  They had no indoor plumbing and got their water from a hand pump well in the front yard.  Their well water had a very high mineral content and tasted strongly of iron.  I actually liked the taste of their water, but it didn't work very well for cooking beans. Allegedly, the beans could be boiled for hours in their hard water without cooking. Consequently, they had to bring home water from town specifically for the purpose of cooking beans. Beans and cornbread made up a significant portion of their diet. I don't know how Grandma Tunnell prepared the beans for cooking. I don't recall if they raised their own dry beans either. I was only interested in eating them at that age. I'll have to ask Mom if she remembers any details.

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