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How to Cook Beans and Peas: Preparing in Advance

Bags of dry beans

If a recipe calls for canned, cooked beans, you can save money by cooking the beans yourself. One 15-ounce can of beans is equivalent to 1 ½ cups of cooked, drained beans, and a 1-pound package of Camellia Brand dry beans will yield 5-6 cups of cooked, drained beans.

To cook beans on the stovetop, soak them first. Important: All beans except lentils, split peas and blackeye peas must be soaked!

After rinsing soaked beans thoroughly, put them in a stockpot and cover them with three times their volume of water. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer gently, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until tender. Depending on the type of bean, cooking may take 30 minutes to 1 ½ hours. Refer to the Bean Cooking Chart.

New Orleans is below sea level – and made for cooking beans! If you live at a higher altitude, plan to add more water and cook them longer. Add 10% to your cooking time for each 1,000 feet above sea level.

When the beans are tender, drain and use in recipes, or store for future use in ½- to 1-cup packages. Cooked beans can be stored in the refrigerator for up to four days and in the freezer for up to six months.

Bean Cooking Chart

Bean Type Cooking Time
Baby Lima Beans/Green Baby Limas 1 hour
Black Beans 1 to 1 ½ hours
Red (Kidney) Beans 1 to 1 ½ hours
Garbanzo Beans 1 to 1 ½ hours
Large Lima Beans 45 minutes to 1 hour
Pink Beans 1 to 1 ½ hours
Navy Beans 1 to 1 ½ hours
Great Northern Beans 1 to 1 ½ hours
Field Peas 2 hours
Pinto Beans 1 to 1 ½ hours
Blackeye Peas (not soaked) 1 to 1 ½ hours
Lentils (not soaked) 30 to 45 minutes
Green/Yellow Split Peas (not soaked) 30 to 45 minutes
Lady Cream Peas 30 minutes
Crowder Peas 40 minutes

Note:
Beans, particularly red kidney beans, must be fully cooked before consuming.

America’s Favorite: Pinto Beans

Refried Beans

According to the CDC and the USDA, the pinto bean is the most consumed bean in the United States. The USDA reports that from 2006 to 2008, pinto beans “accounted for 43 percent of the 1.96 billion pounds of total domestic dry bean disappearance.” That’s a lot of beans!

While pintos are used in variety of recipes, they are commonly recognized as the key ingredient in the popular side dish refried beans. And although we don’t normally think of refried beans as healthy, the hearty flavor of pinto beans allows a cook to skimp on the extra unhealthy fat and replace it with smaller amounts of healthier olive oil. Just be sure to use the right spices—the most common are fresh garlic, cumin, and chili powder or jalapeno—to achieve delicious results.

Fortunately, refried beans are easy to make at home. The following healthy, low-fat recipes are intended as a guide; you can customize the ingredient proportions according to your preferences. If you are a garlic lover, by all means, add more garlic! And if you are cooking for a spice lover, don’t be afraid to increase the jalapeño slightly.

Kid-Friendly Refried Beans

1 1/2 cups Camellia Brand Pinto Beans, soaked
Water or no-sodium chicken or vegetable broth, as needed
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup chopped yellow onion
1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt and pepper

1. Add soaked beans to a pot. Cover, with water or broth.
2. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer gently, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until tender (about 1 ½ hours).
3. When beans are almost done, sauté onions and garlic in oil, about 5 minutes, until onions are clear.
4. Mash or process half of the cooked beans; add mash to onion and garlic. Add a little water or broth to the pan if bean mixture is too thick.
5. Sauté mixture for 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
6. Add cumin and remaining beans and continue cooking until warm.
7. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Makes 6 servings.

Basic Slow Cooker Refried Beans

3 cups Camellia Brand Pinto Beans, soaked
1 yellow onion, roughly chopped
½ jalapeno, seeded and chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
8-9 cups water or no-sodium broth
Water as needed
Salt, pepper, and ground cumin to taste
Shredded Mexican-blend cheese (optional)

1. Add the soaked beans, onion, jalapeno, garlic, cumin, and water or broth to slow cooker.
2. Cook on high for 8 hours, adding water if necessary.
3. When the beans are fully cooked, strain them and reserve the liquid. Mash or process the beans, adding the reserved water as needed to attain desired consistency.
4. When serving, top with cheese.

Makes 15 servings.

Nutrition, Beans, and Your Health

Navy Bean Salad

Navy Bean Salad

The bean has undergone a transformation in recent years. What was once considered an uninspiring, déclassé ingredient found in humble soups and stews is now seen as a healthy and economical source of flavor and nutrition with loads of exciting culinary potential. The bean’s renaissance is not simply due to trends in popular opinion – it’s backed up by science.

Studies have shown that

  • A diet of beans may reduce your risk of certain types of cancers. For example, the estrogens in beans help can reduce cancers caused by certain hormones.
  • A diet of beans may also reduce your heart disease risk.
  • Beans have a low glycemic index, are digested slowly, and help maintain a normal level of blood sugar.
  • Beans contain folic acid, which is associated with a reduced risk of birth defects.
  • Beans are good for people with certain food allergies: they are a great source of nutrients in gluten-free diets and can be made into gluten-free flours.
  • Beans, which are rich in fiber, can help with weight control. People who eat more fiber tend to weigh less than those who don’t.

It’s no wonder that beans have moved into the spotlight as a superfood. Consider the following:

  • Unlike meat, beans are not only low in fat, but are free of saturated fat and trans fat. (All the protein of meat, but no cholesterol!) Plus, lean proteins help promote muscle.
  • Beans are a complex carbohydrate and help you maintain your energy level throughout the day.
  • Beans also contain antioxidants, phytochemicals, folate, manganese, potassium, iron, phosphorus, copper, magnesium, and non-lactic calcium.
  • When eaten with grains, beans provide a complete protein.
  • The USDA Food Patterns classify beans and peas as both vegetables and proteins.
  • In its Dietary Guidelines 2010, the USDA recommends three cups of beans per week.
  • The American Institute for Cancer Research’s New American Plate recommends that meals be made up of 2/3 (or more) of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, or beans and 1/3 (or less) of animal protein.

Want to learn more?

For more information on the health benefits of beans, visit the US Dry Bean Council’s website.
For more information on the USDA Food Patterns, see “Beans and Peas Are Unique Foods.”
Visit the American Institute for Cancer Research’s site for more details about the New American Plate.

Pickled Pork and Ham Hocks

Like so many delicious Southern culinary traditions, the use of both ham hocks and pickled pork came to be as a result of hard times.

While the wealthy viewed knobby, gelatinous ham hocks as undesirable, laborers in the fields and cities gladly used the marrow-rich bones and meat to flavor and enhance the beans, vegetables and broths they fed their families. Hocks were often smoked; other bits and scraps were often pickled in a brine of water, salt, sugar, vinegar, and herbs or spices. Both preparations served to enhance flavor while preserving shelf life.

Southerners have come to a universal appreciation for the richness of flavor and mineral-rich nutrition that these “seasoning meats” and bones impart at a thrifty cost. The practice of including some form of smoked or pickled pork as a flavoring agent continues today with many iconic Southern dishes—red, white and lima beans; field and blackeye peas; collard, mustard and turnip greens; and all manner of stewed vegetables.

Butter Beans with Pickled Pork or Smoked Ham Hocks

1 pound Camellia Brand Large Lima (Butter) Beans
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pound pickled pork or smoked ham hocks
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 quarts water
2 bay leaves
Salt, pepper and/or hot sauce, to taste
Hot cooked rice
Hot buttered French bread

Sort beans, removing debris and broken pieces; place in a large bowl and rinse beans under running cold water until water runs clean. Cover beans with one inch of cold water; let stand at least 8 hours or until needed (do not soak longer than 24 hours). Completely drain beans before cooking.

Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. If using pickled pork add to pot; sauté 5 minutes or until browned. Add onions, and garlic; sauté 15 minutes. Add 2 quarts water, bay leaves and smoked ham hocks, if using; bring to a boil. Add soaked beans; stir well. Return to a low boil; cover with lid, reduce heat to low and simmer 2 to 2 1/2 hours or until lima beans are soft and creamy in texture, stirring occasionally.

Taste; adjust seasoning with salt, pepper and/or hot sauce. Serve hot over hot cooked rice with hot buttered French bread. Makes 8 servings.

Seven Day Pickled Pork

1 (6 ½-pound) pork shoulder roast
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup kosher salt
1 teaspoon cayenne red pepper
3 cups apple cider vinegar
5 cups water
2 large onions, sliced
1 head garlic, separated, peeled & crushed
4 tablespoons mustard seed
4 bay leaves

Trim pork roast of excess skin and fat. Cut roast in half along the bone; remove bone and reserve it for other uses. Cut pork into 2-inch pieces; score a 1/4-inch slice into the surface of each piece. In a large bowl, whisk together brown sugar, salt and red pepper. Dip each piece into the brown sugar mixture; rub seasoning well into meat and shake off any excess. Divide pork chunks into 2 large zip-top freezer bags; let stand at room temperature 2 hours.

Combine remaining brown sugar mixture, apple cider vinegar, water, onion, garlic, mustard seed, bay leaves and peppercorns in a large saucepot (not aluminum) over medium-high heat; bring to a boil. Simmer 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool to the touch.

Divide cooled brine evenly into each zip-top bag, squeeze to remove air and seal. Refrigerate at least one week, turning each bag once daily.

Remove pork from brine; freeze or use within two weeks.

The Southern Tradition of Blackeye Peas on New Year’s Day

Black-eyed Peas on New Year's Day

Blackeye peas are the most beloved of the field peas – a soul food seasoned with the history of the American South. Eat them on New Year’s Day and you should have good luck, good fortune and fresh hope for a new start all year long.

When Union General William Tecumseh Sherman and his army cut a swath through the Confederate South, they left untouched large fields of blackeye peas that grew rampant and spread. Northerners thought these humble beans were suitable only for livestock, while white Southerners considered them a rough meal for field workers, as the beans were first introduced to the region by enslaved West Africans. They were both wrong: when the Civil War finally ground to an end, these delicious, previously disregarded beans literally saved the lives of desperate, starving Southern families. To this day they signify a fresh start, and they’re an important part of the Southern culinary canon, most notably as a traditional New Year’s Day meal to set the stage for a year of prosperity.

In the American South the traditional New Year’s meal also includes collard, turnip, or mustard greens; the greens are thought to symbolize money. Both the blackeye peas and the greens are flavored with ham – some say because pigs forage in a forward motion, representing a push forward to new prosperity. Most Southerners eat their blackeye peas either as a sort of stew ladled over rice, or in Hoppin’ John, a similar dish with the rice cooked in.

New Orleans-Style Blackeye Peas

1 pound dry Camellia Brand Blackeyes
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pound pickled pork, cubed to ½-inch
1 large onion, chopped
1 large  green bell pepper
3 ribs celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
10 cups lightly salted water or chicken broth
2 bay leaves
salt, pepper and/or hot sauce, to taste
hot cooked rice
hot buttered French bread
1 bunch green onions, sliced

Sort beans, removing debris and broken pieces; place in a large bowl. Rinse beans under running cold water until water runs clean. Cover beans with one inch of cold water; let stand at least 8 hours or until needed (do not soak longer than 24 hours). Completely drain beans before cooking.

Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add pickled pork; sauté 5 minutes or until browned. Add onions, bell pepper, celery, garlic and tomato paste; sauté 15 minutes. Add water and bay leaves; bring to a boil. Add soaked beans; stir well. Return to a low boil; cover with lid, reduce heat to low and simmer 1½ to 2 hours or until the peas are tender, stirring occasionally.

If a creamier texture is desired, use the back of a spoon to mash up to one-fourth of the tender beans and stir well. Taste; adjust seasoning with salt, pepper and/or hot sauce. Serve hot over hot cooked rice with hot buttered French bread. Garnish generously with green onions. Makes 8 servings.

Hoppin' John

Hoppin’ John

2 cups dry Camellia Brand Blackeyes
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 large ripe tomato, seeded and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups lightly salted water or chicken broth
2 large ham hocks
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 cups uncooked long-grain white rice
1 cup chopped green onions
Salt, pepper and/or hot sauce, to taste

Sort blackeye peas, removing debris and broken pieces; place in a large bowl. Rinse under running cold water until water runs clean. Cover beans with one inch of cold water; let stand at least 8 hours or until needed (do not soak longer than 24 hours). Completely drain beans before cooking.

Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add onions; sauté 5 minutes. Add tomato and garlic; sauté an additional 5 minutes. Add water, ham hock, bay leaves and oregano; bring to a boil. Add soaked beans; stir well. Return to a low boil; cover with lid, reduce heat to low and simmer 1½ to 2 hours or until the peas are tender, stirring occasionally.

Remove ham hocks, pick meat from bones, chop and return to blackeye peas; discard bones, skin and other unwanted items. Remove bay leaves and discard. Add rice, cover and simmer an additional 25 minutes or until the rice is tender. Add green onions; stir well. Taste; adjust seasoning with salt, pepper and/or hot sauce. Makes 6 servings.

Cultural and Culinary Traditions Involving Beans

Pasta Fagiole

Pasta Fagiole

Human Beans
The cultivation and consumption of legumes can be traced as far back as the Iron and Bronze ages, and man’s dependence on them as a nutritious, easily stored food has been well documented throughout history. In fact, beans and peas have been woven lavishly into cultural traditions throughout the world.

Spirit Beans
Ancient Egyptians buried their loved ones with beans to be used in the afterlife. Beans discovered in King Tut’s tomb by Howard Carter in 1922 were allegedly sprouted and cultivated to maturity by Carter. Beans have also been discovered in Aztec tombs.
Ancient Romans associated beans with the spirit world, and performed annual rituals to banish troublesome ancestral spirits from their homes. The head of the household recited a cleansing prayer while walking backwards and tossing black beans over his shoulder.

Pease Porridge in the Pot, 9 Days Old   
Upon seeking shelter at an inn, Medieval Europeans knew they would find a pot of “Perpetual Stew” simmering eternally upon the hearth. An early sort of broad bean- or pea-based gumbo, the stew was fed continuously with whatever was edible, with contributions made by innkeeper and guest alike. From this jumbled assemblage came the great French bean dish, Cassoulet. People of the northern French Isle of Guernsey ate their white bean stews in earthenware crocks or “bean jars.” Housewives would fill the crocks with beans, scraps of meat, fat, cooking liquid and seasonings each evening and deliver them to the local baker to be placed in the oven overnight. Residual heat from the oven’s daily use slowly cooked the contents of the jar, which was enjoyed the next morning as a hearty and nutritious breakfast.

Blessed Beans
When Dean Martin crooned “When the stars make you drool just like pasta fazool… datz amore,” he was applying romantic imagery to Pasta e Fagioli (also called Pasta Fagiole), a traditional Italian peasant dish of pasta and cannellini beans simmered in broth with garlic, onion, tomato and spices. The Italians also incorporate fava beans into their springtime Feast of St. Joseph celebration, when they are served blended into frittatas or simmered in garlic sauce. When dried, roasted and blessed, favas are handed out as “lucky beans,” thought to ward off poverty and hunger. On New Year’s Day in the American South, blackeye pea dishes are served to bring good luck in the coming year – a tradition thought to derive from a similar Jewish custom as well as from necessity in the hard times after the Civil War.

Sweet Beans
While most traditional bean dishes are savory, Asians customarily cook red kidney and other beans down to a paste with sugar or honey for use as a base in sweet desserts. The paste is routinely blended into pastries, breads, ice cream, candies and drinks. Fried dough balls filled with sweet bean paste and covered with sesame seeds are historically popular, as are sweet bean paste pancakes.

Using Beans to Stretch Your Food Budget

Curried Lima Beans

Lima Bean Curry

The everyday bean might be the perfect food.
Refreshingly inexpensive, beans are also nutritious and flavorful, blend in easily to add bulk to casseroles, dips, salads, salsas, stews, pasta—even bread dough—and lend themselves well to virtually all cuisines from Cajun and Creole, to Italian, Greek, and Middle Eastern.

Half the price and no trouble at all.
Though dried beans require more time and attention when cooking than canned beans, they are still the superior choice. On average, dried beans cost around half the price of canned beans, the salt content can be easily controlled, the consistency is firmer, and the overall flavors more concentrated. Plus, cooking them is easy: toss them in a slow cooker with some chopped vegetables, seasonings or meats (wait till they’re cooked to add the salt, though!) and leave them on low all day long. They’ll be soft, creamy and ready to eat when you walk in the door after work or school.

Buy less meat.
Flavorful in their own right, beans will also absorb every bit of essence to be had from even the most miniscule bit of seasoning meat, allowing for maximum flavor impact with a minimal outlay of cash. Even without the presence of any form of meat added, when served with rice (another inexpensive and readily available staple), the duo comprises a complete protein.

Freeze and save!
Though already thriftily priced, beans can save you even more if you’re prone to buying cans at the last minute. Dried beans can be purchased in bulk, cooked in large batches, portioned into small bags and frozen. Then, when you need a few beans for a recipe—or a whole hill of beans—just grab them from the freezer at half the cost of canned beans. By the way, beans freeze exceptionally well.

Here’s more about “batch cooking” your dried beans to save big money.

 

The “Holy Trinity” – The Base of New Orleans Cooking

Red beans and rice

New Orleans-Style Red Beans and Rice

Ask any New Orleanian what the Holy Trinity is, and though the city’s dominant Catholic heritage might imply otherwise, they’re sure to say onions, bell pepper, and celery. These three aromatic vegetables are the undisputed workhorses in the New Orleans kitchen; almost every traditional recipe calls for their merged flavors to serve as its underpinning.

Creole étouffées, gumbos, sauce piquantes and stuffings. Cajun jambalayas. New Orleans red beans and rice. Each of these dishes typically begins with the finely chopped trinity sautéed in a small amount of oil or fat – often the fat left from browning hot, smoked or andouille sausages or other seasoning meats in the skillet.

Heat breaks down these flavorful vegetables, releasing their trapped liquids onto the hot surface of the skillet. An intense flavor is developed as the water evaporates, leaving behind residual sugars that caramelize the vegetables until a desirable richness is achieved, the intensity of which depends on the length of the sauté.

The result is a naturally concentrated and complex flavor and texture that New Orleanians pray they’ll never have to live without.

New Orleans Tradition of Red Beans and Rice on Mondays

Red Beans and Rice on Mondays

Old habits die hard. New Orleanians continue, with ritualistic fervor, to consume red beans and rice on Mondays. Spicy Caribbean recipes for beans and rice were brought to the city in the late 1700s by French-speaking Haitians fleeing the revolution in Saint Domingue (modern-day Haiti).

Local housewives and housekeepers quickly adapted the thrifty, convenient practice of tossing meaty ham bones leftover from Sunday suppers into simmering pots of red kidney beans that could be left to cook, undisturbed, over a low flame for hours – leaving them free to engage in the arduous Monday drudgery that was “laundry day.” Despite the modern convenience of washing machines and dryers, the Monday red beans tradition continues today, often in a slow cooker while the cook is at the office.

Those disinclined to cook the Monday staple themselves need only walk a block or two to a local eatery; red beans and rice is one of New Orleans’ few iconic dishes to be commonly cooked both in people’s homes and in restaurants.

Red beans are great when cooked down with meat, and modern cooks are as apt to season their pots with smoked sausage (preferably andouille), pickled pork, or a store-bought smoked ham hock as they are the leftover ham of Sunday suppers gone by. Restaurants frequently offer grilled sausage, a fried or grilled pork chop, or even fried chicken alongside the traditional plate of red beans and rice.

Seasoning Red Beans

Red beans and rice

New Orleans-Style Red Beans and Rice

Louisiana-style red kidney beans are typically cooked down in water or chicken or vegetable broth with sautéed onions, bell pepper, and celery (also known as “the Holy Trinity”) and garlic.

The cooking liquid is further flavored with herbs and spices that may include any combination of bay leaves, parsley, thyme, rosemary, basil, oregano, and cayenne and/or black peppers. Leftover or inexpensive cuts of meat, such as smoked ham, pickled pork, sausage or wild game, are often simmered with the beans to impart specific flavors. “Heat” spices are usually kept relatively tame, allowing the diner to personalize his or her serving to taste with condiments offered at the table.

Once that plate of red beans hits the table, it’s anything goes.

If you put red beans and rice in front of three different people from three different Louisiana families, you’ll see at least three different ways to dress up those beans before they take a bite.

Common tableside additions to the red beans and rice dish include hot pepper sauce, sliced green onions, chow-chow (a mustard and pickle relish), a big dollop of butter, ketchup, mayonnaise, pickled white onions, olive oil, and vinegar.

How to Soak Your Beans

Before soaking or cooking your beans, peas, or lentils, always rinse and sort them. Pour the beans into a non-reactive bowl and remove any debris such as rocks, dirt, or imperfect beans. After soaking beans, drain them, discard water, and then rinse the beans. All dry beans—except lentils, split peas, and black-eyed peas—should be soaked before cooking.

There are four ways to soak, ranging from eight hours to overnight:

  1. 8-Hour Slow Soak
  2. 3-Hour Hot Soak
  3. 1-Hour Quick Soak
  4. Overnight Gas-Free Soak

8-Hour Slow Soak

In a stockpot, cover 1 pound Camellia Brand dry beans with 10 cups water. Cover and refrigerate 6-8 hours or overnight. Drain and rinse beans.

3-Hour Hot Soak

In a stockpot, bring 10 cups water to a boil. Add 1 pound Camellia Brand dry beans and return to a boil. Remove from heat; cover tightly and set aside at room temperature 2-3 hours. Drain and rinse beans.

1-Hour Quick Soak

In a stockpot, bring 10 cups water to a boil. Add 1 pound Camellia Brand dry beans and return to a boil; let boil 2-3 minutes. Cover and set aside at room temperature for 1 hour. Drain and rinse beans.

Overnight Gas-Free Soak

In a stockpot, place 1 pound Camellia Brand dry beans in 10 or more cups of boiling water. Boil for 2-3 minutes, cover and set aside overnight. Drain and rinse the beans thoroughly before cooking them.

Note:

Never add salt to water when soaking or cooking beans, as it makes them tough and unable to absorb as much water. Salt your beans when they are fully cooked.