Survival: Know Your Dried Beans!
Dried Beans and Survival
Beans are found in tons of American recipes. That's not really surprising when you consider that Native Americans were growing, cooking, and eating beans long before the white man set foot in the New World. I’m not sure if this is a widespread saying or not, but here in the South we often say that someone “doesn’t know beans” when he’s speaking on a topic about which he has little knowledge. By reading this article, you can be immune to such name-calling, however, because you will know beans! Dried beans have gained a lot of attention lately because of soaring food prices and economic uncertainty. Because of their high protein and the fact that they'll last for years without refrigeration, dried beans are usually at the top of any survivalist list. If you're interested in long-term storage of dried beans for survival, find out how to get free or cheap storage containers for your beans.
Dried beans, sometimes referred to as “dry beans,” are actually legumes, or pulses, and are members of the leguminosae plant family. Legumes form seed pods that tend to split when the seeds are mature, and the family includes beans and peas. When young, legumes can often be eaten fresh, like vegetables – butter beans, black-eyed peas, and scarlet runner beans, for example. Once they’ve been dried, they’re high in soluble fiber, complex carbohydrates, thiamin, iron, zinc, folacin, magnesium, copper, and manganese, while being low in fat. Beans are an inexpensive way to get needed protein, too. In fact, one cup of cooked dried beans provides more than one-third of your daily protein requirement, at an average of 230 calories. Now you understand why dried beans could be an important part of survival during emergencies. Even without electricity, the beans could be cooked over an outdoor gas cooker or even a campfire.
Several varieties can be purchased canned, and they require no cooking. Unless you’re including them in a cold salad, however, you’ll probably want to warm them before eating. Packaged dried beans, on the other hand, almost always need to be soaked in order to reduce cooking time. Even after soaking, most dried bean varieties need to be cooked for several hours. They’re often seasoned with onions, olive oil, chicken broth, chunks of cured ham, or powdered ham flavoring. The canned beans are easier and quicker, but the dried beans you cook yourself are much tastier.
Popular Dried Bean Varieties
Aduki, also called azuki or adzuki, beans are one of the few dried bean varieties that don’t need soaking, so they don't require as much prep time. They're small and have a slightly sweet flavor. These are the beans used to make red bean paste that's used extensively in East Asian cuisine.
This bean is sweet and firm, and it holds its shape well during cooking. It has a somewhat mealy texture and is often part of Southwestern regional cuisine. Anasazi beans should be soaked for at least five or six hours.
Black beans have a smooth, soft texture and an earthy, mushroom-like flavor. They hold their shape well when cooked, so they're often used in salads. They also go well with corn. Black beans are popular in Mexican, Brazilian, and Cuban cuisine. Soak for a minimum of four hours.
Cranberry beans have a mild, nutty flavor reminiscent of chestnuts. They absorb other flavors readily and are popular in Northern Italian cuisine. Unfortunately, they lose their beautiful red color through the cooking process. They need to soak for at least four hours before cooking.
These beans are small, with a creamy texture. Flageolet beans are often referred to as "the caviar of beans" and are relatively expensive. They’re used widely in French cuisine and are often served with lamb. Soak for five hours before cooking.
Fava beans are large, very hard beans that need to soak overnight before cooking. They have a sweet, nutty taste and a creamy texture. Fava beans are popular in Mediterranean cuisine and are often added to pasta, risotto, and soups.
Great northern beans
These beans have a very mild flavor, thin skins, and a velvety texture when cooked. They readily absorb the flavors of added spices and herbs. They’re a popular ingredient in Mediterranean dishes and in French cassoulet. They need to soak for a minimum of four hours.
Kidney beans have a slightly sweet flavor and a soft texture when cooked. They’re very versatile and can be used in a wide array of dishes, including chili, refried beans, and cold salads. Unlike some brightly colored beans, kidney beans retain their dark red color with cooking. Kidney beans need to soak for five or six hours before simmering.
These beans have a buttery, sweet, starchy taste and a smooth texture. When cooked for long periods, they create a thick, gravy-like liquid. Lima beans are native to South America and are popular in Andean foods. They're also used widely in regional Southern cuisine. Soak overnight before cooking.
Mexican red beans
Mexican red beans have a mild taste and a smooth texture. Even after sufficient cooking, they remain firm and intact. As their name implies, these beans are often part of Mexican dishes. They need to soak for at least four hours.
Navy beans, also called Yankee beans, have a soft, dense texture and a mild flavor. They tend to hold their shape during cooking and are often used to make Boston baked beans. These beans were once a staple of the U.S. Navy. Soak for five or six hours before cooking.
Pink beans have a hearty, meaty flavor, a refined texture, and are often used in chili, soups, stews, and similar dishes. Soak for four hours or longer before cooking.
These beans become very soft when cooked and have an earthy flavor. They have the most fiber of all dried beans. Pinto beans are a staple in Latino cuisine and are the preferred beans used in making refried beans and bean dips. Soak for six hours before cooking.
This is a type of pinto bean, and the texture and taste is much the same. Actually, only the vines are different. Soak for six hours.
These beans are very popular in the Southern U.S., especially as a part of Cajun and Creole dishes like red beans and rice. They’re well complimented with the use of spices. Soak for at least four hours.
These large beans pack a lot of flavor – more than many other types of dried beans. These beans are also not as starchy as most other varieties.There are three types of runner beans: scarlet, black, and white. In the U.S., the scarlet variety is often grown as an ornamental due to its red flowers. Soak for six hours.
White kidney beans
Also known as cannellini beans, these beans are similar in taste and texture to navy beans, but they have a slightly different shape. As the beans simmer, they readily absorb other flavors. They’re often used in white chili, minestrone, and other soups and stews. Soak for a minimum of four hours.
Buying and storing dried beans
You can find dried beans in grocery stores, at farmers’ markets, and online. Many varieties are available in small packages and in bulk bins.
Dried beans can keep for up to thirty years when stored properly. For pre-packaged beans, make sure the plastic bag contains no holes. Store beans at room temperature – not in the refrigerator.
If you buy and store dried beans in bulk, they can be separated into smaller quantities and stored in glass jars or plastic containers, with the lids tightly closed. For storing larger amounts, place them in large plastic tubs with tight-fitting lids. Add an oxygen-absorbing packet to the container and store in a cool, dry place.
To store cooked beans, place them in a container with a lid and cover them with some of the cooking liquid. Close tightly. The beans will keep for up to four days in the fridge, and they get more flavorful each time they’re re-heated. Of course, you can also use them cold in salads.
Cooked beans can also be frozen. Allow the beans to cool after cooking. Place them in freezer bags or freezer boxes and cover with cooking liquid. Store in the freezer for up to six months.
For more tips about dried beans, watch the video below.
Under the video, you’ll find links to some great bean recipes!
tips for soaking beans
Great bean recipes:
- Holle's Red Beans, Sausage, and Rice
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- Southern Culinary Arts: Dried Beans and Ham
Welcome to my online cooking school. Today we'll be preparing a favorite of Southern culinary arts, dried beans and ham. But first, a little story. My dad owned a grocery store and a gun shop, and...
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