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 Anderson 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 :)

chosenb4life 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.

Jarrett said...

Hi! We just moved to a home in the mountains in California! New cooking experiences to be certain. I have always loved the economical aspect of cooking dried beans and I'm so happy to have come across your blog about the subject. My only concern: is there any lingering baking soda taste after you cook and rinse them? My beloved husband is very hesitant to use this tip since he is concerned with a lingering taste from the baking soda being absorbed into the beans during the cooking process.

Thank you so much!

Shelley said...

Congratulations on your new home Deanna! I have a couple picky eaters at my house and they have never noticed any difference between plain beans or the ones with baking soda. It is only 1 teaspoon baking soda per 2 gallons of water... very dilute.

You could always try cooking a small amount of beans using this method. If you cook just 1/4 cup dry beans or so you could see if it would work for you without having to waste a lot of beans if you don't like it :)

Jarrett said...

Thank you so much Shelley! I will try that!

Unknown said...

I am trying the crock pot method for black-eyed peas overnight tonight. I live at 8,850 feet of altitude. Pressure cookers need to be calibrated for altitude, but they do work. I had a rice cooker that I donated. With no temperature control, it just ran too hot at altitude. It was easier to just cook rice the old fashioned way, in a pan! I was born and raised at 8,540 altitude and the moved higher. I wouldn't know how to cook without altitude. :)

Unknown said...

I grew up in South Texas, so making Pinto Beans was something I always was doing.

However, I now live in the Andes, and I wasn't having any success with black beans - until I added the baking soda to the beans in the pressure cooker. The irony is that before I divorced, I Used to add baking soda to the Pintos to reduce my husband's flatulence. Who knew I would have to do that here in the Andes, as well!

Thanks for your help!

Unknown said...

Thanks so much for the tip about the baking soda. I soaked a 16 ounce bag of Black beans last night so I went ahead and cooked them for 1 hour when they were still hard after 1 hour. Iwent online for helpand, happened to find your page. I put a 1/2 tsp. of baking soda in anyway while they were cooking and, in 15 minutes the beans were tender I was amazed. Thanks again as I live at 5200 feet and, my beans hardly ever turn out before today. I am thrilled.

Unknown said...

Wow! We just moved to Colorado Springs and this info has helped a lot. Thank you!! I had no idea what was going on with my chalupas.. the beans have been hard after cooking for 7 hrs on high in a slow cooker. I'm used to cooking southern food low and slow being from Nashville Tn. Glad i found these tips. Thx!

Unknown said...

I am hoping the baking soda will solve my crunchy bean problem. I am at 7200 ft.

Jacqueline said...

I have struggled with mushy/crunchy pinto beans in Rio Rancho,NM, at 6000 ft elev. I just tried cooking a pound of beans with 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, and WOW!! Success at last!! Simmeredfor 1hr 30min., and perfect beans! Thank you so much!!

Unknown said...

This is a revelation. I live at 3200m and it is IMPOSSIBLE to cook beans. I, too, literally cooked black beans for days and they still wouldn't soften and so gave up. This advice is life-changing!

Unknown said...

I'm at 6,500 altitude in Capitan, NM. I soak my Pinto Beans for apx. 24 hrs & use a pressure cooker for apx. 45 min. When the beans r soft I then simmer them down to a thick juice & season to taste with salt, black pepper & bacon grease. Served with a pan of crispy crust cornbread, sliced sweet onion or/& Green Chile Pico de Gallo.


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