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|How To Soak|
|The Versatile Grain|
|by Sheryl and Mel London|
All dried beans should be soaked after first picking them over. * In contrast to high-moisture foods that usually shrink during cooking, dried beans seeds - when soaked and then cooked - will absorb enough moisture to more than double in volume and weight. Soaking helps return the moisture that the beans have lost during drying.
Soaking softens them and makes them easier to cook. * It is quite difficult to determine the age of beans, since packages are not dated, or you may have purchased beans that have been lying on a shelf for some time. * Soaking helps prevent skins from cracking or bursting while cooking and before they become tender enough to eat. * After proper soaking, cooking time is reduce by about one half.
Prolonged cooking will also cause a loss of vitamins and minerals. * Soaking helps break down and leach out the indigestible sugar that may cause intestinal gas. * During soaking, some beans may rise to the surface. these may be the older beans with little moisture that were harvested prematurely, with the bean shrinking within its seed coat and sometimes trapping dirt. This is the time to easily locate and discard them. * The only exceptions to soaking before cooking are split peas and lentils. * Current crop beans grown in the spring, harvested in late summer or early fall and purchased from a reputable dealer with a fast turnover of product probably do not require soaking, but even then, you can't be certain of freshness - and soaking won't harm the beans in any way.
Beans usually absorb most of the water they need to rehydrate and swell in about four hours at room temperature. The prime rule for soaking is always soak in tepid water. Some books and recipe instructions call for cold water, but cold water has a tendency to make the beans tougher.
Before Soaking: Pick over the beans thoroughly. Then place the beans in a strainer, place the strainer in tepid water in a large bowl and swish them around. Some tiny bits may float to the top along with some bean shells. Skim off before pouring off the rest of the water so that they don't mix with the beans again. Repeat the process two or three times in tepid water. Then put the beans in a large bowl and cover with water about four times the volume of the beans.
Long Soaking Method (six to nine hours): This is the traditional "long soak" or "overnight soak" that traditional recipes use and it is still quite acceptable. If for some reason you find you have to extend the soaking time for as much as a day or two, just be sure to change the water at least once a day so the beans don't ferment. If you live in a particularly hot climate, change the water more often. After soaking, drain and discard the soaking water and rinse the beans in tepid water and proceed with the recipe instructions.
Short Soaking Method: This is a time saver if you decide at the last minute that beans are to be part of your menu. Put the picked-over and washed beans in a three-quart saucepan. Add hot tap water to cover the beans by about two to three inches and bring slowly to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil for two minutes, then remove the pot from the heat. Cover and let the beans soak for about one hour. Drain off the soaking water. Then rinse the beans in a colander with fresh, tepid water, turning them gently so that all of them are rinsed; proceed with the recipe instructions.
* Use about four times the volume of water to beans for soaking. * Never cook beans in the water in which they've been soaking. Soaking leaches out the complex sugars and cooking in the same water will let the beans reabsorb them. The complex sugars can cause the gas that bothers many people. * Don't add salt to the soaking water. Salt will toughen the seed coat and prevent absorption of the water. * For beans that do not require soaking before they are cooked (split peas, lentils), just rinse them in tepid water, drain and continue with your recipe. * Some "old wives tales" call for adding baking soda to the soaking water. Avoid this if possible. Baking soda should only be added to the hardest of hard water, since it affects the flavor, destroys the nutrients and makes the beans mushy. If you live in a hard water area and feel you must add baking soda, use no more than one-eighth teaspoon to one cup of dry beans.
Submitted By DIANE LAZARUS On 03-19-95