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The Definitive Guide To Cooking Heirloom Beans

Heirloom beans are the much more flavorful ancient ancestor to the beans you find in the grocery store. Because you’ve invested a pretty penny in gourmet beans you probably want to make the most of them. After much research we've put together the definitive guide to cooking heirloom beans.

Follow these proven tips and tricks from chefs and food scientists:

  1. To Soak or Not To Soak: You do not NEED to soak your beans, it simply cuts down on cooking time. In his book, Cool Beans, Joe Yonan tells us that soaking beans is completely unnecessary. That said, some people with inflammation issues have found that soaking beans makes them more digestible. If you do soak, it's recommended to leave them on the counter for 12-24 hours and change the water frequently.
  2. Lentils and Field or Cow Peas should not be soaked. They cook up quickly and the texture will actually suffer from soaking.
  3. Add The Salt!You'll hear famous chefs admonish you to never salt the water when boiling beans but science and many experiments proves this popular kitchen myth wrong. Salting the water allows the skin of the bean to soften and the interior to more evenly hydrate to prevent beans from exploding before the skin gets soft. If you’d like to know the science on this you can read more from the Kenji Lopez Alt HERE.
  4. Kombu Is Your Secret Weapon. Kombu, aka seaweed, is a total ninja cooking move. The glutimates in kombu enhance the flavor of everything you add it to kind of like nature’s MSG. The amino acids in the kombu soften the beans outer skin for better texture.
  5. Pro Tip:You can soak your beans and then freeze them, removing just the amount you need for each recipe. This way you'll always have pre-soaked beans available for shorter cooking times.
  6. Cook A Batch On Sunday. Each week you can cook up a pound or two of beans that you plan to eat for the week and put then in the fridge in their cooking liquid to be used in recipes all week long.

Heirloom Bean and Grain Club

5 Methods Of Cooking Heirloom Beans

Soaking & Cooking Stovetop

  1. Rinse and pick through the beans discarding any stones or broken beans.
  2. Place the beans in a large container capable of fitting 3x the volume of dried beans you are soaking (I use one of the giant ball jars). Add the beans and fill with water. Leave on the countertop 12-24 hours. Replace the water whenever you go into the kitchen.
  3. Discard the soaking water and rinse the beans well.
  4. Place the beans in a large pot and add water until it covers by 2 inches.
  5. Add 1/2 tablespoon os kosher salt (sea salt is about 3x more salty so if using sea salt use 1 teaspoon).
  6. Bring the water to a boil and keep at a boil for 5 minutes.
  7. Add 1 strip of Kombu.
  8. At this point you can add aromatics such as onion, garlic & herbs. I don’t add aromatics when cooking heirloom beans because they have so much amazing flavor all on their own. I suggest cooking them naked and tasting before deciding how you want to season them. Most of them are wonderful with just a sprinkle of salt and pepper and a drizzle of really good olive oil.
  9. Cover with a tight lid and reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 1-3 hours checking the beans every 30 minutes to make sure the water has not evaporated. Test the beans for desired texture after an hour. The smaller the bean, generally the less time it will take to cook. If you are cooking Ayocote or Christmas Lima they’ll take 2-3 hours to cook even after soaking 24 hours.
Flageolet Beans

No Soaking Pressure Cooker

  1. Rinse and pick through the beans discarding any stones or broken beans.
  2. Place the beans in your pressure cooker and add water until it covers by 2 inches.
  3. Add 1/2 tablespoon os kosher salt (sea salt is about 3x more salty so if using sea salt use 1 teaspoon) and 1 strip of Kombu.
  4. At this point you can add aromatics such as onion, garlic & herbs. I don’t add aromatics when cooking heirloom beans because they have so much amazing flavor all on their own. I suggest cooking them naked and tasting before deciding how you want to season them. Most of them are wonderful with just a sprinkle of salt and pepper and a drizzle of really good olive oil.
  5. Cover and set pressure cooker to high for 45 minutes.
  6. Allow steam to escape naturally and then check for texture. If they are too toothy just cook them for another 30 minutes. The smaller the bean, generally the less time it will take to cook. If you are cooking Ayocote or Christmas Lima they’ll take 60 to 90 minutes to cook even in the pressure cooker.

No Soaking Stovetop

  1. Rinse and pick through the beans discarding any stones or broken beans.
  2. Place the beans in a large pot and add water until it covers by 2 inches.
  3. Add 1/2 tablespoon os kosher salt (sea salt is about 3x more salty so if using sea salt use 1 teaspoon) and 1 strip of Kombu.
  4. Bring the pot to a boil for 5 minutes and then reduce to a simmer.
  5. At this point you can add aromatics such as onion, garlic & herbs. I don’t add aromatics when cooking heirloom beans because they have so much amazing flavor all on their own. I suggest cooking them naked and tasting before deciding how you want to season them. Most of them are wonderful with just a sprinkle of salt and pepper and a drizzle of really good olive oil.
  6. Cover and simmer for 1-2 hours, checking the water level frequently to make sure the beans are still covered.
  7. Check for your desired texture at one hour. The smaller the bean, generally the less time it will take to cook. If you are cooking Ayocote or Christmas Lima they’ll take all day but they’ll be delicious.

No Soaking Slow Cooker

*This is actually my favorite way of cooking beans for slowly, deeply developed flavors and no fuss. I love to add a bunch of yummy spices and aromatics to the pot and stir in a bit of chard just before serving. It cooks all day while I’m working and really took me just a few minutes to prepare.

  1. Rinse and pick through the beans discarding any stones or broken beans.
  2. Place the beans in your slow cooker and add water or a combination of water and stock until it covers by 2 inches.
  3. Add a generous sprinkle of salt if you are cooking with stock and more if you are cooking with just water and 1 strip of Kombu.
  4. At this point you can add aromatics and other ingredients such as tomato, onion, garlic & herbs. It really depends on what you want at the end of the day. If you just want cooked beans to add to a dish just add water, salt and Kombu. If you want a finished soup, use stock and aromatics of your choice.
  5. Cover, set slow cooker on high and cook for at least 4 hours, or on low for at least 6 hours. The smaller the bean, generally the less time it will take to cook. If you are cooking Ayocote or Christmas Lima they’ll take all day but they’ll be delicious.

heirloom bean and grain clug


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