Dry Beans: An Easy Recipe For Healthy Eating

Bgs002 One of my little pleasures here at Green Thumb Farms is strolling down to our bean-packing facility. It’s amazing to see the transformation from dried plants in the field (yep! This is a field-dried product, check out our video here.) into one of nature’s artistic and nutritious creations, Jacob’s Cattle Beans.

They are glossy maroon and white with spots like a herd of exquisitely-marked cattle. It’s no wonder we call them Jacob’s Cattle Beans. That’s Jacob from the bible, by the way, said to have bred sheep that looked like this. But that’s another story…

 

DSC05355We grow 3 other varieties of dry beans in addition to Jacob’s Cattle beans. 3 of them are heirloom, meaning that they are the same now as they were from time immemorial – non-GMO, non-hybrid, non-anything you wouldn’t want in your body.

I recently spoke to a friend who loves beans but rarely uses them.   Her mother (Jean), she said, was a baked bean-maker extraordinaire.   People called her mother’s beans “Jean’s Beans” because they were so delicious and distinct. Trouble is, my friend didn’t have any idea how her mother achieved such great results.

In fact, my friend has been avoiding beans because she has had such poor results with bean recipes, including her mother’s prized baked beans.

After I set her straight, it occurred to me that if she doesn’t have a clue about dry beans, maybe you don’t either!

So, fasten your seatbelts and let’s do a quickie exploration of the wonders of dry beans and how to prepare them for excellent results every time.

The Best Dry Beans For New England

Jacob’s Cattle, Yellow Eye and Soldier Beans are the 3 heirloom varieties we grow here at Green Thumb Farm. We round out our bean crop with Light Red Kidney Beans that are used as an alternative to Yellow Eye, for the typical New England baked beans your grandmother made, and the famous Boston Baked Beans.

Why, you might ask, are Light Red Kidney and Yellow Eye beans the two types favored for New England baked beans?

Two reasons:

  • Tradition (and that means everything, doesn’t it?)
  • Taste

Okay, so that’s the skinny on baked beans and if you want more, see our favorite baked bean recipe here.

Let’s get down to the meat of the subject.

What Do I Do With Dry Beans?

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When I was a young kid, I knew a little kid who stuck dry beans up his nostrils and had to go to the hospital to have them removed.

I don’t recommend using dry beans in this manner.

Seriously, though, if you aren’t already using dry beans in your cooking, why would you switch to them now?

Quick answer: easy, healthy and inexpensive. Tasty too!

As more people are becoming vegetarian, vegan, or just wanting to eat less meat, dry beans are waiting patiently in the chairs along the wall, waiting for you to notice them and ask them to dance.

Do ask them to dance! They are an excellent source of protein, have a great texture and take on other flavors making them easy to incorporate in dishes like pasta and salads.

  • My friend was surprised by this. “Pasta?” she asked.

Let me explain. Beans, especially Jacob’s Cattle or Soldier, are great mixed with pasta, along with yellow squash, diced red peppers and topped with Scampi or Newburg sauce.

Sound yummy? You bet!

Remove the meat, get the protein and don’t lose any of the pleasure. That’s the easy, healthy, dry bean answer to pasta.

They are also great as a salad topper, with candied walnuts, dried cranberries and the like.

But How Do I Prepare Dry Beans?

 Don’t fret. It’s easy! Here’s the secret to successful dry bean preparation that your mother or grandmother may never have told you:

  • Sort the beans in a tray to check for rocks or other field debris, then rinse
  • Soak overnight OR put in a saucepan with 3-4” of water over the top of the beans
  • Bring to a boil and boil for 2-3 min. (skip this step if you soaked them overnight)
  • Pull out a few beans and blow on them. If the skins break, they are ready
  • Drain the water they boiled in (or soaked in) and add new water for the next step
  • Beans are ready for seasoning (with bay leaves, tarragon or sage, for instance)
  • Simmer for an hour, being sure water covers the beans the whole time
  • Check to make sure the beans have the soft texture you want and drain.
  • Beans are ready to add to salads, pastas, etc.

That was easy, wasn’t it? I have a few more comments to add that might surprise you.

  • Add a 2” x 4” strip of Kombu (seaweed) per pound during the simmering process to eliminate some of the sugars that cause…ahem…flatulence.
  • Never, never, never add any salt during the simmering process (and that includes chicken or beef broths with sodium added) or the beans will not soften up.
  • Eat more beans! Your body will get used to digesting them after a bit and you’ll be able to eat them for dinner and go out in the evening without panicking that you’ll have a gas attack!

 

And finally, you can store these beauties in an airtight container, preferably in the dark, for years.

So, for a highly nutritious, easy-to-prepare meat substitute, get on the dry bean wagon and get healthy!

 

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