Fall and winter usher in the season of warm, hearty bean dishes (and I am not talking about fresh green beans). Sure, while you can purchase cans of beans from a grocery store, homemade cooked beans (starting from dried) offers a flavor profile that just can’t be beat. A pot of beans simmering on the stove is homey and perfumes the air with a savory aroma.
Unless you grow the beans yourself, you can purchase them from a variety of vendors: grocery store, farmer’s market, specialty grocery, or even direct from a CSA (community supported agriculture). Examples of beans that are sold dried include, but not limited to the following: pinto, navy, black, kidney, cannellini, black-eyed peas, great northern, lima, adzuki, and cranberry.
But before you dump the beans into a pot, there are a few things to keep in mind.
Dried bean package “extras”
- Packaged beans may contain debris – stems, husks, leaves, and even small pebbles may be included
- Unsuitable beans may be included – shriveled beans, ones with visible mold, and broken beans may be in the package
- Dried beans may not be clean – dust or even bits of dirt may cling to the beans
This brings me back to the cautionary tale. Simply dumping beans into a sieve to rinse before placing the beans into a pot is not sufficient. Those package “extras” may show up in any bag. And if you are unlucky… some of those extras may bear a striking resemblance to the beans in the bag, necessitating sorting one-by-one.
Case in point, I present to you “The Crown Cracker”. Yes, this pebble was the same size at the larger beans. Yet somehow it managed escape winnowing.
As another example, there are several beans in the photo below that appeared to be partially covered in a whitish mold. Now while I may not be a top chef, I do know that a moldy bean does not make for good eating.
So please, I beg you… sort through your beans BEFORE you put the lot of them into a bean pot. Not only will you end up with a great tasting batch of beans, but this cautionary tale may also save you a trip to the dentist office.