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About Soaking and Cooking Heirloom Beans

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The new "Heirloom Beans" cookbook by Steve Sando and Vanessa Barrington (Chronicle, 2008) devotes four pages to the basics of soaking and cooking a simple pot of beans, but Sando has boiled the key techniques down to a three-minute video on YouTube.com.

Part of the reason these steps work so well is that he uses his Rancho Gordo heirloom beans, which have great flavor and great variety in texture and color. Excerpts, with cookbook information in parentheses:

· Rinse the beans (one pound).

· Soak for about six hours (in a bowl, covered with water by about 1 inch).

· When ready to cook, heat some oil in a medium pot (over medium heat).

· Chop up some carrot, celery and onion (all in big chunks) and smash some cloves of garlic. Add to the pot.

· When the vegetables are soft, add the beans and cover with water by about 1 inch (soaking liquid also may be added).

· Bring the water to a rapid, full boil.

· Reduce the heat to a mere simmer (medium-low) and allow the beans to cook, covered, for about 1 to 2 hours.

· When the beans are soft, add salt to taste. (In the cookbook, Sando recommends adding a scant 2 teaspoons of salt per pot that starts with 1 pound of dried beans. He cooks the beans a while longer so that they soak up the flavor.)

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