Note: This was originally published in February of 2009 and remains a perfect illustration of one of AOC’s core philosophies: creating “pantry basic” foods instead of buying them is easy, good for you (you control the ingredients) and saves money.
We use beans a lot around here – they are a healthy, cheap food that can be used no matter what the season – soups in the winter or salads in the summer. I used to only use canned beans – they still seemed pretty cheap to me and I would never remember to soak dry beans even if I did buy them. Which is why it was a revelation when I read somewhere that you didn’t have to soak them. Yes…I really did just write that – will the bean police track me down? (see update below for more on this topic)
So, I did some experimenting. I cooked them by just throwing some dry beans in a pot with water and they cooked in about 1 hour and 15 min. Soaked beans for me took 45 min to one hour, so unsoaked didn’t take much longer. But how to have them in a ready-to-use form like cans without actually having to pressure-can all our beans?
Since I freeze much of our garden produce, I experimented by putting the cooked and drained beans in pint and quart-size freezer containers, covering them with fresh water and freezing.
It worked! The beans were fresh and easy to use in whatever recipe I was making. I did need to remember to defrost them, but there are ways to hurry that along, unlike the cooking process. So, I found a way to have beans conveniently ready to go that I cooked myself, but was I really saving money?
This picture represents about 18 (15.5oz) cans of Great Northern and Garbanzo Beans (I’ve found cans to contain about 1 1/2 c. of beans). On my last trip to a discount chain grocery store, the store brand beans were .62 cents a can, making my 18 “cans” worth $11.16.
I paid $1.84 for 2.22 lbs. of the Great Northern at .83/lb and $1.59 for 2.56 lbs. of Garbanzos at .62/lb. making my total cost $3.43 (or about .19 per can). I saved $7.73! And it took about 10 minutes of hands-on time, making it a great return on my money.
How to Cook and Freeze Dry Beans
- Put any amount of dried beans in a stock pot (soaked or not, your choice), covering with double the water (2 lbs will equal roughly 9 cans of beans).
- Bring to a boil over high heat, then lower heat to keep beans at a simmer for about 1 hour and 15 min. Do a 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 soft.
- Drain beans in a colander and rinse well with cold water (this cools them faster).
- Divide into freezer containers, leaving 1 inch head space.
- Fill with cold, fresh water to just above the beans. There should still be 1 to 3/4-inch space to allow for expansion in the freezer.
- Label with the date and type of bean. A piece of masking tape and a permanent marker work fine.
- Place in the freezer. They keep for many months this way.
- Defrost before using in any recipe that calls for canned beans (1 1/2 c. = 1 15oz. can)
4/25/11 update: For clarification, I DO always drain the water that the beans cooked in before freezing- we’ve found that the first water the beans are in causes the stomach problems usually associated with beans (from releasing phytotoxins). If I’m using the beans the same day, I either do a quick soak or cook like I describe here, but drain the initial water before proceeding with the recipe. Bottom Line: You absolutely DO NOT want to ingest the initial cooking/soaking water to avoid the phytotoxins (or sugars, or whatever…), aka “the bean problem.”