We live at 6,222 feet elevation.
Almost 1,000 feet HIGHER than the famous “mile-high city” about 100 miles down the road.
On top of the the whole thin air/less oxygen thing, it is a pain learning to cook and/or bake “up” here.
Brief scientific explanation: At high altitudes, the atmospheric pressure is decreased, making water boil at a lower temperature. This lower boiling point means foods cooked in water will require more time to cook. (Like dried beans).
And don’t even get me started on candy making.
OK. Back to the beans: Getting them soft enough for human consumption is a challenge. I once soaked black beans for 12 hours, drained and simmered them in a crockpot for 24 HOURS. . . and they were still CRUNCHY after 36 hours of cooking!!
Tried some tips I found on the internet for cooking beans, including using fresh beans (old beans have a harder seed coat) and not adding ANY salt, seasonings, meats or vegetables to the cooking water until they are soft (they make the seed coat harder to penetrate).
Aaand. . . yeah. Still had crunchy beans. Even though they are a healthy and cheap food that can be used in many dishes, I did, in fact, almost give up on cooking dried beans.
Until I read these 2 revelations somewhere awhile ago: YOU DON'T HAVE TO SOAK dried beans and BAKING SODA WILL HELP SOFTEN THEM.
And it WORKED! Seems plain old baking soda softens the seed coats and cooks them right up!
It’s really easy!
High Altitude Dried Beans (with freezing directions)
1. Put any amount of dried beans in a Dutch oven or stockpot (no soaking necessary). Cover with double the water. Add 1/2 – 1 teaspoon baking soda (depending on how many beans you are cooking).
2. Bring to a boil over high heat, then lower heat to keep beans at a simmer for about 1 hour to an hour and 15 minutes. Taste test to see if they are done to your liking, they should be soft enough to eat, but relatively firm - don't let them get too soft at this point.
3. Pour them into a colander and give them a quick rinse.
4. Now you can add the remaining ingredients from your recipe and continue cooking.
5. OR: To freeze for later use: Measure and place 1.5 cups into into each freezer container or Ziploc freezer bag. You definitely can freeze in smaller or larger amounts. I prefer 1.5 bags/containers, as they are equal to one 15 ounce can from the grocery store :)
4. Add a little cold, fresh water. Just enough to prevent drying. There should still be 1 to 2 inches space to allow for expansion in the freezer.
5. Label, date and freeze until ready to use. Easy as that!
One pound of dry beans will yield about 6 cups of cooked beans, equal to 4 cans from the supermarket. (There are about 1.5 cups of beans per can when you drain the liquid).
Red beans and rice.
Even if you don’t live at high altitude, cooking and freezing beans at home is less than HALF the cost of canned beans. Plus, you can freeze a much broader variety than what is available in cans.