Okay, this is it, the way to cook beans. I cook off a pound at a time. We don't generally eat that much at a sitting, but beans can be used up in any number of ways and they freeze pretty well.
1. Spread the beans out on the counter and pick out pebbles, dirt clods, and bad beans (shriveled, discolored, funky looking). This really is necessary. In 40 bags of beans I didn't find one that didn't have a pebble or dirt clod in it.
2. Rinse the beans, put them in a bowl and cover them with lots of water. Let them soak 6 to 8 hours--until the skins are smooth. Drain and discard the soaking water.
3. Put them in a pot with salted water to cover by at least an inch. Bring to a simmer and cover. (Check after a few minutes to make sure they are only barely simmering.)
4. Start tasting the beans after about 40 minutes. Taste several, since broken beans will be softer than whole beans. When they are done, drain and use. However, save some of the soaking water, it is often good instead of water, wine, or broth for the dish in which you are using the beans.
Both chef and musician, John Ryan wrote the Just Good Food blog from 1996 through 2001.
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