Black bean woes

I am once again attempting to cook a stew from dried black beans instead of canned, and once again tempted to give way to despair.

I have so far followed a Cooks Illustrated recipe claiming that the beans a) don’t need soaking, and b) that you should add salt to them before cooking. After 3 hours of simmering, I am growing skeptical. These beans do not appear to be progressing past a certain chalky point. I’ve now read recipes all over the internet about pre-soaking and absolutely not adding salt. On the other hand, there weren’t many choices at the store - maybe they are stale and unfixable? :frowning:

Anyway, not sure what to do with them. There is a beautiful ham hock in there that I would hate to have wasted. Do I just puree and call it a soup? Do I start over with the canned beans I bought as a back-up and just simmer them with the ham hock for an hour?

Any ideas…?

Keep cooking. Black beans can take as long as 6 or even 7 hours. Just keep adding water so they don’t dry out.

Thanks. The recipe said 2 hours, but I forgot to account for the 10,000 feet of altitude. I guess it could be all night… :smack:

I think you nailed it there. Older beans cook erratically and take more time. I’ve had good luck buying out of bulk bins at stores with high turnover.

Keep chugging along on low. Trying to speed things along with more bTU’s will yield a bunch of burst beans.

Thanks, sylmar, I have turned the pot down and adjusted my expectations accordingly :slight_smile: I was definitely a little concerned about the age of the beans since it’s just a small market and they were on sale… probably not a good sign. I’ll keep cooking and see what happens.

Still, it smells great in here.

I’m at 5,000 feet, and I’ve never gotten away with not pre-soaking, regardless of how “fresh” my dried beans were.

Whatever you do, don’t decide that a pressure-cooker is your answer. It’s not, unless you were planning to mash the beans anyway.

Hopefully they are done by now. I hope they were delicious.

They do?!?

I never pre-soak, and always salt while they cook. Never had 'em take more than a couple hours. Black beans are one of the faster cooking beans in my experience.

That said:

  • from what I’ve read, the main cause of beans not cooking well is that they are old, or were not properly stored before you bought them. Where’d you get the beans? Have they been in the back of your cupboard for a long time?

  • altitude screws everything up. 10K feet? Yeah, who knows.

I’m not sure why, but my Cuban grandfather never soaked the beans, so I never have either. Since I always host the holiday dinners, I’m up at the crack of dawn to get the beans going every year. But they’re so good, I don’t mind. I should try soaking them first though.

By the time we went to bed last night, they were done (@8 hours of cooking time)! So I put the pot in the fridge for the night and am finishing the dish for tonight’s dinner. We haven’t eaten yet, but I had a taste and… yum! Very flavorful. It’s a trial run of feijoada, or Brazilian bean/meat stew. Besides the meat from the ham hock, there are sauteed slices of andouille and chopped bacon, plus onions, garlic and jalapenos. Not the healthiest dinner, but we have salad greens so it’s all good :stuck_out_tongue:

Thanks for all the encouragement and tips! I am definitely soaking the beans next time, and will try to get them from a better source than our small grocery. I think just the altitude is enough to increase the cooking time, but I’m not banking on those bagged beans again, either.

I cooked them for the first time ever on the weekend to make some texas caviar, something I read about here on the SDMB but had never tried.

Since I bought the dry beans Saturday afternoon and wanted to eat it for Saturday dinner, I didn’t have 14 hours to pre soak them so with a bit of google help, I did this.

Beans in pan of water, bring to boil, boil for 2 minutes, turn off heat, cover and leave sit for an hour or so.

Then drain the beans, refill pan with water, bring to boil then simmer until cooked (which took about 45 minutes)

FWIW, I’m at an altitude of about 70 metres, or 2 hundred and something feet.

I had Black Eyed Peas in the same pan, and once they were all cooked and cooled, mixed them with diced cherry tomato, capsicum, corn kernels, onion, coriander leaves, jalapenos and some olive oil and lime juice dressing. Very tasty.

I cooked two year old split peas once. They stayed hard for hours but I kept adding water. Finally, they broke down and they were far and away the best and richest tasting split peas I ever had.

I don’t think soaking matters much, but dry beans ALWAYS need a lot more cooking than recipes tell you. Two hours?? Forget it! I do my pinto beans at least 10 hours in just water and then add the ham hock/bacon, jalapeno, garlic, onions, tomatoes or whatever for an additional 2-3 hours. I’m not kidding. Just make sure there’s plenty of water. The age of the beans is relevant, but always plan on cooking them 10-12 hours and you’ll do fine.

I finally gave up on trying to use dried beans - the electricity used in cooking them for hours and hours costs more than just buying the canned ones.

Do you really notice a difference in your electric bill? Stoves don’t take up that much electricity, do they?

And regardless, there really is no comparison taste-wise to canned versus dried. The dried and re-cooked ones are way better IMO. Canned always has a bit of a metallic taste.

Plus, I’m not sure why everyone seems to have so much trouble cooking them. I cook black beans maybe 2 hours, pintos maybe 3-4, and I can’t remember the last time they weren’t perfectly done in that amount of time. I do make sure not to use beans that have been sitting in the back of my cupboard for years. Other than that, I don’t do anything special. I even add salt at the beginning of the cooking process.

Crock pot.