In case I haven’t made it abundantly clear already, black beans make a frequent appearance in our meals. My prefers-not-to-talk-unless-absolutely-necessary two year old learned to say “black beans” before she knew that a cow says, “MOO!” (this may also be due to the fact that I, as her primary vocabulary influence, find animal noises to be far less important than food, ingredient, and cooking terms).
Short of getting all preachy about canned foods being lined with plastic (BPA), I decided that for our family, it was the right decision to try to avoid canned beans. Plus, I’m notoriously frugal and even buying the organic dry beans in bulk is cheaper than canned beans AND they taste better.
So here’s how black beans get made around here.
- Find a toddler with slight OCD-tendencies. Have said toddler pick out all shriveled, broken, otherwise questionable beans and any other non-bean items (rocks, for instance). This is an excellent opportunity to work on the word “yucky.” We tend to work with a pound of beans each time.
- Rinse the beans well and give them another stir to check for undesirables (sometimes it’s easier to see abnormalities once the beans are wet).
- Chop an onion and a few cloves of garlic. It’s not rocket science; an onion or two and some garlic. I leave the root of the onion in tact so that it’s easier to fish out once the beans are done.
- Add beans, onions, and garlic to the slow cooker. If you have a bay leaf or two, add that in (I was clearly out on photo day; our palates survived, I can assure you.). Add enough water to the slow cooker to cover the beans by about 2 inches. Then sit back and wonder if anyone actually calls it a slow cooker or if we can just add Crock Pot to the list of Kleenex/Jello words. Cover, and cook on high for 3 hours (or low for 6 hours). Check the water level periodically to make sure the beans are staying covered in water (add more if you need to).
- At 3 hours, stir in a heaping tablespoon of salt, and start checking every 20 minutes or so for doneness. I prefer to leave them a bit firmer so I can make soups or other dishes that involve more cooking without having mushy beans. If you know you’re making hummus, black bean burgers, or other “squished” applications, cook them a bit more. Remove the onions, garlic, and bay leaves.
The beans can be refrigerated in some of the remaining liquid for at least 3-4 days (the “bean juice” is yummy to add to rice or soups). You can also freeze black beans for a couple months (I’m saying a couple because no one actually follows freezer rules. You’re probably fine for 3 months, but forget I said that.).
This method works for most other beans as well: chickpeas, white beans, etc. Do not, however, make kidney beans in a slow cooker. Kidney beans have high levels of a toxin that will not be killed off by the relatively low temperature of a slow cooker.
Happy bean making!
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