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Wednesday, July 7, 2010


I think the ability to cook good food from basic ingredients is a valuable survival skill. If nothing else, it'll save money and you'll most likely eat better.

I was just given a case of pinto beans. For me this a real treasure. However, it's come to my attention that most people don't know what to do with dried beans. The local food pantry recently had a bean recipe contest. Too many people had no idea what to to with dried beans.

It's a shame really, as beans provide cheap, filling, healthy food. Combined with rice, it make a complete protein. Beans and rice, being cheap and easy to store, provide the basis of many emergency food storage plans. That's fine, as long as you know how to cook them.

My original cooking method was the trusty crock pot. Soak the beans overnight, drain, put beans in electric crock pot, add water to cover beans, and let them cook for the day. That's the basic idea.

Another method is to use a pressure cooker instead of a crock pot. Soak them like before. Drain, put in the pressure cooker, cover the beans with water, then pressure cook them for 30 minutes of so. The exact time will vary with equipment and the type of beans, but 30 minutes should bring you in the ball park. Adjust as needed. Pressure cookers save a lot of time and cooking fuel.

I've got a couple of cast iron Dutch ovens. They can be used instead of a crock pot in primitive conditions. They work great for cooking outside using the coals from a campfire.

Beans can be cooked in a regular pot on a very slow simmer all day. You do have to keep an eye on it and add water as needed. It's easy to boil away the water and uncover the beans. I've had good luck cooking beans on the cooler section of my wood stove.

To save energy, use a hot box. Picture an insulated box that you can put hot cook pot in. Heat the beans on the stove, then but the pot in the box to keep warm. Reheat as needed. Boxes can be made with wood and insulation. They've even been fashioned from baskets filled with straw. Even wrapping the whole thing in a blanket might work. There are plans for hot box construction available.

What do you do with your cooked beans?

Well, you could cook plain beans, then use them the same way you'd use can beans. Mix them with cooked rice, veggies or anything else that catches your fancy. They can be a main course, side dish, or used in a sandwich wrap. I like to take cooked beans, and cook them with olive oil and onions, making a refried bean paste. Pretty yummy. Traditionally, refried beans are cooked in pig fat. Tastes great, but my arteries thank me for using olive oil.

Another thing you can do is cook a whole complete dish along with the beans. That works well for things like chilies and baked beans. For a basic vegetarian chili, I'll add onion, peppers, chilies, and salt. Then I'll see what else I've got left over in the fridge and might toss that in too -meat, carrots, zucchini, and even a bit of bakers' chocolate.

I make a vegetarian bean dish using molasses, sugar, onion dry mustard and salt. Traditionally a big hunk of salt pork is added. To eash his own.

I'm not giving exact recipes as there are plenty of them available. The main idea is that the ingredients are cheap and readily available.

Recipes will tell you what type of beans to use, but don't feel bound by that. I've made baked beans using navy beans, soldier beans, cattle beans, and kidney beans. Different varieties of red beans are usually used in chilies, but don't feel bad about mixing in some black beans, pinto, or anything else you've got. Beans can add a heartiness to many soups.

Cooked beans freeze well, so don't worry about making big batches. Right now in my freezer there are some baked beans and a spicy white bean soup.

Many cultural dishes use beans to good effect. When I was a kid growing up near the Quebec border, every Saturday night was baked bean night. On Sunday morning we'd all go to church and sit in "pews." Figured there was a connection.

But seriously, if you slowly add beans to your diet, the gaseous effects aren't too bad. Over time, the body adjusts. It's worth it to take advantage of a good source of excellent nutrition.



  1. Red beans and rice, hooWEE! Now that's good...

  2. . . . and darn cheap . . . and stores well.

    Spices can do wonders to beans and rice.

  3. I agree that beans are important to eating well and eating cheap. I know of very, very few people who cook with dry beans although they stock them just incase. The biggest complaint about them is they take too long to cook which is not true if you pressure cook them or they don't taste like can beans. Well that's because home cooked dry beans don't have the chemically laiden sauces used in surpermarket can beans. Create your own sauce, it's easy.
    Beans are like wheat grain and making your own flour and bread from it. It takes pratice but after a few tries at it you won't go back to store bought bread. Fresh milled grain and baking bread from it is addictive.

  4. Been milling my own grains for years. Bought a bread at the local farmer's market Thursday. It was almost as good as one of mine, so it was pretty decent bread.