Adventures in Cooking: The Black Bean

I became a vegetarian just over a year ago and one unexpected benefit is a renewed interest in trying new recipes. A month ago I bought dried black beans. I had no idea what the difference was between the canned version I usually bought versus soaking and cooking them myself, but I thought it time to give it a try. 


A few days ago I did an internet search to find out what the process was.  As usual, there were hundreds of people who wanted to tell me how go from dried bean to deliciousness. Step 1: Sort the beans. The instructions acted like I knew what this meant.  Sort them into what? Piles of ten? I closed out of that page and opened someone else’s instructions. “Remove any stones, twigs, malformed or discolored beans.” Stones? Twigs? How on earth does one harvest beans such that there are stones and twigs among them? I had no idea, but I knew if I used Google to find that answer I would never get to the task at hand. Back to the beans it was.

I dumped a half-cup of beans into a bowl and sifted through them. I pulled out maybe fifteen things I thought shouldn’t be in there. If I had poured my beans onto a tray I could have pushed to one side all the good ones, but I wasn’t interested in going to all that trouble.  Besides, I wasn’t going to serve them to anyone else, so if a stone slipped in it was only my tooth that would be damaged.

Next I added an equal amount of water.  It didn’t seem like enough. But I followed the instructions. “Let them soak for six hours.” Six hours?! It was six p.m. So much for having black beans and rice for dinner. “Overnight is fine.” Well, overnight it was going to be then, as I was not about to get up a midnight to care for my beans.  I like to cook, but I like a good night’s sleep just as much, if not more.

I pushed the bowl of beans aside and opened my fridge to see what else I could have for dinner.

After dinner, I peeked into the bowl. Those beans were taking up more space and had soaked up most of the water. I made an executive decision to add more water.

The next day they were looking pretty good. If overnight was fine, I figured 24-hours wouldn’t hurt. I could eat them that night. But I forgot about them until the next morning when I padded into the kitchen and smelled something funny. It took me a minute to remember my beans. Thirty-six hours was a little too much for them apparently.

Round 2

This time I only did 1/4 cup of beans.  No need to waste anymore of them if this didn’t turn out well.

Who screws up soaking black beans? Me. Ha. Who knew how difficult  I could make throwing beans and water into a bowl.

I pulled up a third set of instructions. I zoomed past sorting. After telling me to add water, this one mentioned that “in hot-weather kitchens, it is best to put the beans in the refrigerator to prevent fermentation.” Ah. I knew what fermentation was. It’s a stinky process that can happen when a woman leaves a bowl of black beans and water sitting on the counter in an un-air-conditioned cabin.

This time I started the process at 9 a.m. on a  cool and cloudy Saturday. I could soak these guys and have them for dinner tonight.

By afternoon the clouds cleared and I was off to meet friends at the pool. Upon my return, I read my next steps. Note to self: read instructions fully before embarking on cooking adventures. I know this, but really how much could there be to soaking some beans? Well, there could be an additional 45 minutes of simmering. Really? I was hungry. So I put the beans on to simmer, and made myself a frittata for dinner.

Finally, after I was sufficiently satiated and the dinner dishes were done, I deemed my beans done as well.  I drained the water, poured them into a Pyrex, and put them in the fridge. Tonight, my friend Courtney and I will eat them mixed with quinoa, salsa, and cilantro. I hope she doesn’t break a tooth.

6 Comments Add yours

  1. alpacasoup says:

    So how were they?

  2. Glenda Beall says:

    This is wonderful! I remember so well the first time I soaked beans. Just like you I had no idea that it was such a long process. However, I finally learned a short cut whereby I bring them to a boil, let them boil several minutes then turn off the burner. That helps the soaking part move along much faster. Your adventure with the beans is funny and I remember the frustration I had also, that first time, thinking I could have them ready for dinner within an hour at least.
    Great post. I’ll have to share this.

  3. Linda Clarke says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading your story (thank you, Glenda Beall, for telling me about it), and would love to hear how your black beans turned out. The one-and-only time I made black beans, I made them for company. The recommended cooking time in the instructions was way, way, way too short. Those little beans were hard as rocks long after the time that they should have been done. Fortunately, we had pre-dinner snacks, so we didn’t starve. From now on, it’s strictly black beans from a can for me, thank you very much.

    1. Linda –
      They turned out great after all that! Thanks for sharing your experience as well. I’m with you–I can now fully appreciate a can of black beans. But I have a whole bag of dried ones and will definitely use them up (but will do the “boil first” method next time!)

  4. Thanks Glenda, and yes, they turned out wonderfully:)

  5. Sammy Fong says:

    I use the quick soak method also, consisting of bringing the beans to boil for a few minutes, then letting them sit in the hot water for about an hour. Then you dump out the water and rinse the beans. I’ve read somewhere that this helps cut down on the gasiness of beans and also aids in their digestion. I usually don’t expect to have the beans the same day I start them, however. These days, I usually throw the quick-soaked beans into a large crock pot and let them cook slowly overnight. I also looked up bean cooking online, and a couple of sources have highly recommended baking them in the oven for same-day eating. Unfortunately, I don’t have the large Dutch oven that is the preferred container to use with this method. Good luck in your further vegetarian culinary endeavors, Rebecca!

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