i realize this seems like a silly post. first, beans in convenient non-perishable cans are available in any variety at the store; second, how hard can it be to throw beans and water in a pot and simmer until they’re cooked? while the from scratch method is a bit cheaper, it does take time and foresight which turns lots of people off. but it tastes so much better!
when you cook beans from scratch correctly they become a whole different food with a much deeper flavor. you also have the freedom to add spices and herbs to infuse the bean itself, as well as the liquid (making bean soup just a few additional steps). plus, it takes all of two minutes to make the adjustments.
beans from scratch
works for lentils too!
first, soak your beans in water for 4 hours or overnight. this is not required of lentils and isn’t necessary for beans with the exception of garbanzos but it makes the cooking process much quicker. make sure you add enough water so the beans will still be covered after they double in size.
when you’re ready to start cooking, add your aromatics. i recommend starting with 1/8 of a teaspoon of each aromatic per 2 cups of dry beans to begin with until you find which flavors you like. (i added waaaay too much coriander once and it was not delicious). aromatics will generally always includes a bay leaf, the rest is based on the flavor of the dish the beans will be served with, for example:
mexican: bay leaf, cumin seeds, coriander pods, garlic cloves
indian: bay leaf, cumin seeds, coriander pods, cinnamon stick, star anise
italian: bay leaf, herb stems, garlic
you can throw the aromatics in the beans loose, or bundle them in a cheesecloth sack to remove when the beans are finished. i don’t bother with the cheesecloth because its an extra step, but do be advised once in awhile you’ll get a explosion of spice in your mouth because the small seeds can’t be removed like the larger garlic and cinnamon stick.
vegetables can also serve as aromatics to add a depth of flavor to the beans. based on what is in the fridge, i either cook the beans in a mixture of vegetable broth and water (1:1 ratio), or if there is no vegetable broth to be had i add a fat ring of onion, and a celery and carrot stick, both chopped in half).
bring the beans to a rolling boil and then reduce heat and simmer covered for about 35 minutes. test the beans at 35 minutes, they may be done or you might be like me and like mushier beans and cook them another 10 minutes. when the beans are to your liking, remove all of the large aromatics.
add salt gradually while tasting in between additions. when you taste the beans, include the liquid, as that is where much of the salt will lie. do not salt the beans until they are done cooking. adding salt too soon prevents the beans from absorbing water.
if you like (i only occasionally do this), before serving the beans add some acid (lemon or lime juice, depending on flavor profile) and fresh herbs.