Savory Beans

Cooking beans from scratch is cheap, but takes a while. I usually start them before going to bed, then finish in the morning and freeze the results for work. But if I were making this for dinner I might start them before going to work and finish after.

Rinse beans -- if you're being careful you might want to check for small rocks. Put the beans in the crock pot with some water. The amount of water is not too critical as long as you have enough. I usually use about three parts water to one part beans. If you're going to drain the beans at the end it doesn't matter at all, but I prefer not to drain them because I think I once heard that some of the nutrients end up in the water. So not draining them means you are trying to get the liquid just right, because they need to stay covered, and it's probably not worth it. Set the crock pot on high, wait about 7-8hr.

If you have flavorful stuff that won't be damaged by a long soak, it's good to put it in with the beans from the beginning. If we have turkey bones or other suitable leftovers, I'll often use them, otherwise I might make some bacon and put it in crumbled. Usually not very much; bacon is quite flavorful. Cheap cuts of meat often work well. Onion, carrot, or cabbage could also go in at this stage.

After the beans are cooked, I'll drain them to the right level of soupiness. Or maybe add some (cooked) pasta and have a soupy pasta thing. Then I'll start spicing them. The hardest thing to get right is the amount of salt. With no salt they taste unflavorful, no matter how much other tasty stuff you add. With too much, they taste good, but you're eating more salt than you need to. What makes it harder is that if you're planning to put it over something unsalty such as pasta, then you want the beans to taste a little too salty when eaten alone. It's kind of annoying.

After salting them, adding other flavors is good. Garlic especially, also basil, rosemary, oregano, and pepper. I think you're supposed to add these late because they are chemically volitile and if you put them in for the long cook they'll lose their potency. In adding these and adding the salt, I taste often and go through a lot of spoons.

Once ready, I'll put into small containers where I'll be able to eat the whole container's worth before they go bad, and freeze them. Some people like ice cube trays for this purpose, where after they've frozen into cubes you take them out and bag them all together. The goal is to be able to thaw only a reasonable portion.


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