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Volume II
April 30, 2005

Beans, Beans, The Musical Fruit...
by Amy Hunt

If you have never enjoyed a good fresh pot of homemade beans, you are really missing out. I grew up with beans straight from a can, and thought there was nothing else to it. When my chili pepper addict husband came along I was introduced to real refried beans made by one of his aunts.

In an effort to impress my husband, I have tried numerous times to duplicate the taste and flavor of his aunt’s beans. Needless to say I have always come up a little shorthanded. Beans are not in my blood. At the brink of giving up all together I ran across this article at From it I learned the many things that I was doing wrong—like salting the water. Geraldine Duncan gives great advice on making fabulous homemade beans. The following is her article:

To soak or not to soak, that is the question. Pre soaking your beans is an exercise in futility. I have never soaked a bean in my life nor my mother before me. I have absolutely no idea where the myth about soaking beans over night before cooking them came from. It is absolutely unnecessary and actually, not wise. There is a myth that soaking the beans removes the gasses. Un-true! When you soak your beans over night, the natural sugars begin to ferment, thereby producing more gas. In general people who have a very high fiber content in their diets are not bothered with bean gas. Beans are very high in fiber and when they enter the digestive tract of people who eat very little fiber, they naturally start things moving and the result is – GAS!

 Now, as to it taking to long to cook your beans if you don’t soak them; well, shuckey darn, I put my beans in a pot, cover then with water, bring them to a boil in an uncovered pan, then reduce the heat to maintain a simmer, cover with a tight fitting lid and in approximately an hour and a half to two hours I have fully cooked beans! No soaking, no draining, no fussing! Now, do not put any salt in the pot with the beans because it tends to make them tough. Salt them after the fact. You can however add garlic, onion, bay and other herbs and seasonings to the pot.

 How much water to how many beans? I put however many beans I want into a pot that will give them plenty of room and add enough cold water so that it is standing about 4 inches above the surface of the beans.

How many dry beans make how many cooked beans? You get almost double the volume of cooked beans as the amount of dry beans you started with.

 I kid you not. You don’t have to soak your beans.

 Are dry beans you cook yourself more nutritious than canned ones. Amazingly, dry beans, as opposed to fresh beans, loose very little nutrition when canned. The greatest loss is in fiber and that isn’t much. Canning greatly reduces the water soluble vitamins, ie. C and b complexes, however these are usually added back in the form of vitamin supplements. However, for those avoiding sodium, should most definitely cook your own beans. The difference between those you cook yourself and those in cans is significant. For example: ½ cup of kidney beans you cook yourself contains 2 mg of sodium while canned, low sodium contain 436 mg of sodium, yes, low sodium! Dry Lima beans you cook your self contain 3 mg of sodium while the canned contain 405. Pinto beans you cook your self contain 2 mg of sodium, canned ones, 353!

 You will find a variety of recipes that use beans. For most of them you may use canned or start from scratch beans. To me the advantages of cook from scratch beans are, first the expense, particularly if you use a lot of beans. Most types of dry beans cost less than a dollar a pound and remember, you will get nearly double their volume in product once they are cooked. Also, there is just so much sodium in canned beans that I try to stay away from them. I also prefer the texture of from scratch beans better than canned.

 Also, using canned or from scratch beans will greatly depend on what you are using them for. If for example, you simply want to put a few beans in a salad or a burrito, then perhaps opening a can is more efficient and convenient, if however you are planning a meal based around beans or a bean dish, it is probably a good idea to cook your beans from scratch.

 Beans are an excellent source of vegetable protein and do not need to be augmented with an animal product at all. Beans are extremely low in fat and have no cholesterol, if that is you cook them with olive oil instead of the traditional lard.

 Most cooked beans contain per ½ cup serving about: 120 calories, 8 g of protein, 22 g of complex carbs (the good kind), 8 g of fiber, no fat, no cholesterol, 23 mg calcium, 1.5 mg iron, plus other vitamins and minerals. That’s pretty damn good for something that costs less than a buck a pound and is kind to your heart and arteries. Of course just how heart and artery friendly they are depends on what you add to them.

 So, be happy, and heart healthy, eat beans and remember: you don’t have to pre soak them!

Refried Beans

½ cup vegetable oil or lard
2 cups cooked Pinto Beans (recipe follows)
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper


Heat lard in 10-inch skillet over medium heat until hot. Add Pinto Beans; cook, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes. Mash beans; stir in chile powder, cumin, salt and pepper. Add more oil to skillet if necessary; cook and stir until a smooth paste forms, about 5 minutes. Garnish with shredded cheese if desired.

Yield: 4 servings

 Pinto Beans

4 cups water
1 pound dried pinto or black beans (about 2 cups)
1 medium onion, chopped (about ½ cup)
¼ cup vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic
1 slice bacon
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cumin seed


 Mix water, beans and onion in heavy sauce pan. Cover and heat to boiling; boil 2 minutes. Remove from heat; let stand 1 hour. Add just enough water to beans to cover. Stir in remaining ingredients. Heat to boiling; reduce heat. Cover and boil gently, stirring occasionally, until beans are very tender, about 2 hours. (Add water during cooking if necessary.) Drain; reserve broth for recipes calling for bean broth. Cover and refrigerate beans and broth separately; use within 10 days.

* DVO welcomes your kitchen hints and cooking or nutrition questions! Email us and we'll post your hints and Q/A's in upcoming newsletters! *

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