Tuesday, May 4, 2010


Black beans - or any dry bean, really - makes a great, frugal pantry staple.  Periodically, I cook up a whole bag, cool, and freeze in 1 and 2 cup portions.  They make welcome additions (or stretchers/fillers) in chili, meatloaf, salads, burritos, enchiladas, soups, with rice or just by themselves.  How do I make them?  Like this:

What You Need:
1 - 16 oz. bag dry black beans
1/3 - 1/2 Cup dry spices* (salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder)

What You Use:
4 qt. saucepan, with lid
large spoon
lidded storage container
freezer bags

What You Do:
1. Rinse the dry the beans. Sort the beans to remove anything that doesn't look like a firm, black bean.
2. Drop sorted, rinsed beans in saucepan.
3. Dump spices on top of beans. Mix well. You're looking for good coverage on the beans. Let sit for 30 minutes. This allows the spices to cling better to the beans, which means tastier beans.
4. After 30 minutes, cover the beans with water. The water needs to cover the beans by at least 2 inches.
5. Bring beans to a boil, then cover and simmer on low for one hour. You'll know the beans are done when they're tender and starting to split.
6. Drain beans. DO NOT RINSE.
7. Place beans in lidded storage container.  Let cool for about 20 min, then slide into fridge.
8. For freezer storage:  Only use beans cold from the fridge.  Label freezer bags with the date (including month and year) and measurement of beans (1/2 Cup, 1 Cup, 2 Cups).  Measure out beans and place in labelled bag.  Squeeze out air and seal.  Beans keep in the freezer for a couple months.

*The truth is I don't really measure my spices here.  I go by aroma.  If it smells good, I stop dumping in the spices.  Helpful, aren't I?  For the beginner, I'd say use ~1 Tbsp each of salt, pepper, cumin, and chili powder.  Cumin adds depth and a smoky flavor.  Chili powder adds heat.  These are your beans, so season to taste.  When in doubt, stick your finger in the mix and taste.  Keep in mind the final flavor will be muted, so if it's mild to you now, it'll be even milder when finished cooking.

Rinse the beans thoroughly, removing little rocks and bits that aren't good, firm-looking beans.

The spice team.

Dump spices on the beans.

Yep, you want this much coverage.  Stir them up and let it sit for about 30 minutes.  Letting the spices dry a little on the wet beans helps the flavor.  If you add water now, you'll have more flavor in the water than in your beans.

Add the water.  Cover beans with 2 inches of water.  Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer on low for 1 hour.

When the beans are done, your pot will look as if it's holding industrial sludge. Drain the beans in your strainer but do NOT rinse or you'll wash away all their delicious goodness.  After draining, place them in a lidded storage container.  Let them cool about 30 min on the counter, then lid up and place them in the fridge to cool completely before bagging, tagging, and freezing.  If they aren't completely cold from the fridge, the hot moisture will cause condensation in the freezer bag - which means ice crystals all over your beans.  So, cool them completely.  It might take a whole day in the fridge before they're cool enough to freeze.  I usually cook my beans one day and freeze the next.  They'll keep in the fridge for 4-5 days, so no rush.  

~ G

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