Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Cooking (and freezing) dried beans at high altitude

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.

Or baking.

cooking (and freezing) dried beans at high altitude | the Prairie Cottage

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 | cooking and freezing dried beans at high altitude {thePrairieCottage}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. 


Elise said...

Wow! I had no idea that cooking at high altitudes was so difficult!
Can you use a pressure cooker to get things done?

Country Gal said...

I have some really old beans - I wonder if the baking soda idea would help soften them as well? great hint!

make.share.give said...

Beans and rice- my favorite. I like them with cornbread and pickles.

Bitterroot Mama said...

*TIME SENSITIVE* Greetings from Kristen Welch (www.wearethatfamily.com) and Jen De Groot. We're compiling the best tips submitted to Works for Me Wednesday into an e-book and would love to include you. Please contact us at thatworks4me (at) gmail (dot) com as soon as possible for more details. Thanks!

Elise said...

We're at the base of Pikes Peak in Colorado and we're 6,412 ft. I thank you for your info. I want to try to boil my own beans after checking the sodium content of canned!

Ali said...

I am living in Peru right now at exceptionally high altitude and I really appreciate this tip! Thank you from a hungry gringa:)

Richard Taylor said...

How long do you cook the beans the second time around, after you have added the ingredients you want to cook them with? Do you cook them then with the lid on at a simmer? Thanks.

Shelley said...

Richard, once you have added the ingredients, you will want to cook them as directed in the recipe you're using... they are used the same as a store-bought can of beans :)

Seth Powell said...

Thanks for the help! I'll try this method. We live in Bolivia at 8,700 ft.. beans and flour based things (pasta, cakes, bread..) can be such a pain.


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