Quick And Easy Holiday Recipes: Quick Soaking Dry Beans

Instead of soaking dry beans all night in water in order to soften them up (re-hydrate them), use this technique to have them ready to use in about an hour.

Dry beans are a wonderful source of nutrition and are delicious. The traditional method of preparing them for use in soups, chilis, and other dishes is to soak them overnight to allow them to re-hydrate (or re-absorb water). When you don't have 10 to 12 hours to soak them, there is a quicker way to prepare them.

To quick-soak your beans, first pick through the beans to remove small stones and other foreign material. Then place them in a cooking vessel large enough to allow the beans to expand to about two-and-a-half times their present volume. For each pound of beans, add 6 to 8 cups of hot water. Heat to boiling and boil vigorously for 3 minutes.

Then set the beans aside in the hot water off the heat. Cover the pot and let it sit for at least an hour. Usually an hour will be enough to soften the beans sufficiently to permit using them in your recipe. Check softness by seeing if you can crush a bean between your fingers. If so, they're ready.

If you can leave the beans to soak longer, perhaps up to 4 hours, additional useful things will happen. The additional soaking time will leach out more and more of the complex sugars in the beans that cause gas when you eat them.

When ready to use the beans, discard the cooking water and rinse the beans. Few, if any, essential nutrients will be lost in the cooking water. (Authorities are mixed on this question, but most of them agree that you should not use the original soaking water in the subsequent cooking.)

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