Old-Fashioned Life Hacks: Seasoning Beans, & Keeping Soup on the Stove

Recently, The New York Times wrote an op-ed about beans, A Boom Time for the Bean Industry. In it, staggering statistics like this show up: “Many canners and packagers are hiring staff or adding shifts to meet the surge in demand. Typically, Rancho Gordo receives 150 to 200 orders a day for its specialty beans. On March 14, the company received 1,669 orders. The next day, it recorded an additional 1,450. “We’re not set up for this at all,” Mr. Sando said.”

Many consumers are turning to beans as shelf-stable pantry additions during these unstable times, both out of concern and necessity. As going to the store becomes more and more difficult and impossible for many, beans offer an easy form of fiber, protein, and good-for-you hearty nutrition. Beans are the often comical, unsung heroes of good eating, but the funny thing is, a lot of people don’t know how to cook them. We’ve become so dependent on opening a can of precooked beans and dumping the contents into a pot of soup that we’ve forgotten the cost savings and easy of just soaking and cooking dry beans. So, as part of my new series this week showing quick and easy cooking solutions using pantry ingredients and wild or garden food, here’s a quick 3-minute tutorial on how to cook ’em and what to do with ’em.

Today’s tutorial covers how to simply season beans in their own cooking broth with salt, heat, fat, and acid, plus herbs and spices. You can use any of your favorite herbs and spices, and don’t be afraid to experiment.

I quick-soak all kinds of various dry beans by bringing them to a boil, turning off the heat, letting them soak for at least an hour, rinsing them thoroughly, covering with water till it’s 3” above beans, and pressure cooking them for 15 minutes. You can use your InstantPot, slow cooker, or standard stovetop method to boil them until tender. For a more in-depth tutorial on cooking dry beans from scratch, hop over to my post on Basic Black Beans.

Then, after you’ve cooked the beans until they’re tender, simply ladle out what you need, season to taste with various sources of salt, heat, fat, and acid, and keep the rest on hand for making creamy hummus, spreads, pasta dishes, and more.

You can check the boxes of salt, heat, fat, and acid using all kinds of flavors–bouillon goes a long way in power packing flavor and salt without diluting your beans with a broth; you can always play with hot sauces and various dried peppers for sources of heat; butter, animal fat, such as a bit of leftover bacon fat (if you are a meat eater) adds a big boost of smoky flavor right away; and acid can join in from any source–vinegar, citrus, even pickle brine is a surprisingly amazing addition to soups, and a spoonful of salsa and shredded cheese nearly always rounds things out.

Refrigerate or freeze what you don’t use for later, and don’t forget that hummus and creamy bean dip arrives in many forms–join any type of cooked bean with a veggie and herb/spice addition in the blender, and you’ll make a quick and easy dip for crudites, chips, sammies, and more.

Leave a Reply