What the Hey Do You Do with Dried Beans?

Several weeks ago, Luke Murden, our 757 Whole Foods Cooking Coach, demoed preparation of Swedish brown beans. These medium sized beans have a mahogany color and make a delightful thick stock as they cook. I grabbed a copy of Luke’s recipe, stuffed it in a jacket pocket, and hid it. A couple of weeks later, I tried to make the beans by memory with guidance from Joy of Cooking and Fannie Farmer but failed miserably. Changing coats, I found Luke’s recipe. So here goes.

Cooking Time

This recipe requires about a day for overnight soaking of the beans and about 2 hours to cut up, assemble, and cook.

Tools

  • 3 quart or larger vessel in which to soak the beans
  • 5 quart Dutch oven
  • 2 quart prep bowl to hold diced stuff
  • monkey dish to hold measured spices and garlic
  • chefs knife
  • cutting board
  • 4 ounce serving spoon

Soaking the Beans

All beans contain long chain saccharides (sugars) that digest in the large intestine rather than being absorbed in the stomach. In the gut, bacteria digest these saccharides making copious quantities of carbon dioxide among other metabolic products. The end result is a flatulent diner.

Soaking the beans over night removes the saccharides. The beans will expand by a factor of 4 during soaking. Use 1 quart of pot volume per cup of dried beans. For most recipes, a 3 quart pot works. Add the beans and fill the pot to within an inch of the top and cover. Let sit undisturbed until morning. In the morning, change the water and continue soaking until ready to cook.

It is important that all the beans be covered. Add water as needed to maintain liquid over all the beans.

Carnivore Option

Buy a quarter pound or so of your favorite sausage (Italian, andouille, chorizo). Skin the sausage, mush it flat with a board knife, and scramble it while browning. Remove the sausage and reserve the oil to begin the vegetable sauté step. Once the vegetables are sautéed, add the browned sausage.

Vegetables

The vegetables listed are those required to make Luke’s learning recipe. You can go big on all of these to produce a chunky result or to make bean soup.

  • 2 carrots diced
  • 1 large stalk of celery diced
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
  •  1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1-2 bay leaves
  • optional 1 or 2 cans of fire roasted diced tomatoes

Dice all of the vegetables, probably 1/2 cm dice. Mince the garlic. Sauté these as follows.

  1. Add olive oil to cover the bottom of the pot and begin heating, 2.5 to 3 on electric.
  2. Add the spices to the cold oil and warm until some bubbling is observed. The garlic may go in at this point.
  3. When the garlic begins emitting steam, add the onions, celery, and carrots and stir to coat with oil
  4. Cover and roast for 20 minutes at low heat.

During the roasting process, the vegetables will reduce in volume and begin to caramelize. If you prefer, you can continue until some color is developed but take care to reduce the heat. By the 20 minute mark, most of the liquid will have been liberated and the temperature of the brew will begin to rise. Keep a close watch reducing heat as needed to prevent burning.

Cooking the Beans

This is where I went wrong in my first go. Back in the day, Fannie Farmer, Myrtle Hamby, and Ethel Watson cooked their beans in an excess of water, typically 4 to 5 cups of liquid per cup of soaked beans. At the end of cooking, they drained the beans and discarded that great stock they had just made.

Luke Murden’s method uses 2 cups of water per cup of dried beans. When I made my beans, I used 2 cups of dried beans and 2 liters of water (1 to 4 ratio). As a result, that delightful thickening that occurred during Luke’s demo went missing in my go. So don’t do as I did, do it this way.

  1. Drain the beans
  2. Add to the vegetables and stir up well
  3. Add the 2 cups of liquid per cup of dried beans
  4. Add 1 teaspoon of low sodium Better Than Bouillon per cup of dried beans
  5. Let this simmer until everything is well mixed
  6. Cook about 1 hour until beans are soft and some gravy begins to form
  7. Taste the broth at this point and adjust salt and pepper