“A bag of Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans. “You want to be careful with those,” Ron warned Harry. “When they say every flavor, they mean every flavor – you know, you get all the ordinary ones like chocolate and peppermint and marmalade, but then you can get spinach and liver and tripe. George reckons he had a booger-flavored one once.” Ron picked up a green bean, looked at it carefully, and bit into a corner.
“Bleaaargh – see? Sprouts.” ― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
I’ve never paid beans much attention before. They are kind of low on the totem pole of pantry supplies. It seems like they are thrown into recipes to “fill” them up. I’ve been, (all puns intended), known to skip them altogether because they have so little flavour, what’s the point?
Recently I’ve learned to respect beans. They are a blank slate where the cook can create whatever is desired. The nutritional value is impressive. The work they do inside the body is fantastic. So why the bad rap?
You don’t get an instant sugar rush from eating them. That is what compels people to eat these days. The immediate feelings – sweet, salty, sour, spicy. But you can have all that, with just a little work. No, you can’t get this from a crinkly package at the supermarket. So roll up your sleeves and create your own “taste sensation”, (as my kids like to say).
I prefer small white beans. Oddly they are called navy beans. The research I did today relates that name to US Navy rations, it has since stuck. Here in Canada, they can also be called Great Northern beans, if you can find them. I usually end up with white kidney beans, which are more readily available, but different tasting and larger.
So I took the up the task of making my own. Be prepared – this takes a long time. But I think the effort is worth the taste. Once you get into this habit, it will become a second nature routine in the kitchen.
First comes the soak:
- check for rocks and shrivelled or broken pieces
- rinse well
- pick a container that will allow for 2 to 3 times the volume, (they puff right up)
- for each 1 1/2 cups of dry beans add 2 T of acid, (I like apple cider vinegar)
- cover with water, 4″ higher than the beans
- let this sit for 2 nights
Then comes cooking:
- on the 3rd day, rinse the beans and place in a large pot
- add 4 cups of water for each cup of dry beans
- bring to a full boil and skim off foam, (I don’t find the navy beans produce any foam)
- turn down to a simmer
- add a piece of kombu or seaweed
- add garlic and bay leaves, (I also throw in a chipotle or two)
- simmer until the beans are tender, with a soft middle which is easy to squeeze
- add 1 teaspoon of salt per cup
- let cool to room temperature
- weight and volume are the same, so 540ml can size equals 14 ounces of weight
- drain well
- put in glass jars or plastic BPA free bags and freeze until ready to use
Finally, before freezing everything, I like to make a really nice dip for vegetables, or maybe a spread for some bread. So simple, just scoop out some freshly cooked beans with a slotted spoon. Be sure to grab a couple of cloves of garlic. With the back of a fork, mash the beans, adding salt and olive oil as desired. The spread below was gone in minutes yesterday about 4pm.