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LENTIL & BEAN BASICS

Foods bought in bulk are less expensive. If used regularly, they can be stored in a five-gallon bucket. They can also be sealed in a #10 can or Mylar pouch

Foods bought in bulk are less expensive. If used regularly, they can be stored in a five-gallon bucket. They can also be sealed in a #10 can or Mylar pouch

 LEGUME PRIMER

                                        Eva Seegmiller, Troy Branch, 2011

 Legumes – Good for You

Legumes are a valuable part of any storage plan. They store well and are high in protein and fiber. Although they do not contain all eight of the essential amino acids to be a complete protein alone, they become a complete protein with the addition of other grains that do have the amino acid they are lacking. According to Peggy Layton in her book, Cookin’with Beans and Rice, 1998, the lacking amino acid is methionine. This lack can be made up for by combining legumes with other grains such as wheat, rice and corn or small amounts of eggs, meat or dairy products. Layton goes on to explain that the body stores amino acids for up to three days after being eaten so complementary amino acids are available to combine with others to produce a whole protein. Examples? refried beans and tortillas; beans with cornbread; beans and rice. It’s actually quite easy to achieve a high level of nutrition under these guidelines.

 NUTRITION – Legumes are also a valuable source of the vitamins thiamin, pyridoxine (B6), niacin and folic acid. Minerals found in legumes are iron, calcium and magnesium along with other trace minerals essential for good health.

 DISGESTION – As good as legumes are, they do cause some problems with digestion. Any good storage plan should include milder alternatives to beans for the very young, old, ill, or for those who have trouble digesting them, i.e. rice, dried potatoes and pasta. Even for the healthy, it’s nice to combine beans with these more easily digested foods.

 To discuss the digestive difficulties, I again refer to Peggy Layton for explanations. “It is a well-established fact that the production of flatulence is associated with consumption of legumes and seeds. The raffinose sugars that are contained in beans are the cause of gas production. These sugars contain three or more simple sugars (sucrose contains two). The digestive enzymes in the gastrointestinal tract are not capable of breaking their sugars apart into simple sugars for absorption, so they pass into the colon. In the lower intestine, bacteria forms carbon dioxide, hydrogen and methane gas, and metabolizes the sugars. According to recent research at Utah State University, germination (sprouting) or fermentation of the beans reduces the amount of complex sugars and consequently the gas production. Cooking has little effect on the raffinose sugars and flatulence. There is little that can be done in food preparation to minimize this problem unless the beans are sprouted or fermented. There is great variation in individual tolerance of beans in the diet.”

 Over the years I have heard of many suggestions of how to help deal with this problem such as adding something to the pot while it cooks, eating other foods with the beans etc. I have found these suggestions to be fairly useless. However, I have one suggestion that I discovered to be a helpful and it is simply this – don’t overeat. Have one bowl of chili, not three. Another idea – some sources suggest that adding “Beano” to the first bite aids in digestion. This is an enzyme product available in some drug stores.

 GENERAL GUIDELINES FOR COOKING BEANS

Legume is a term that includes all beans, peas and lentils.  They vary greatly in cooking times. Most large beans, such as pinto, take a couple of hours to cook. Lentiles are much faster. They cook in about 30 minutes, and I have some Red Chief lentils which have wonderful flavor and they cook in about 5 minutes.

Regardless of the legume being cooked, it is important to wash them thoroughly first, removing any dirt clods, rocks or shriveled or spoiled legumes.

METHOD 1: wash the beans then add water to cover well and let beans soak overnight. Drain water off in the morning and rinse well. Add new water and cook the beans by slowly simmering them until tender. This can take up to a couple of hours.

METHOD 2: Shorten cooking time. Wash beans well. Put beans into pan and cover well with water. Bring to a boil and let boil for 2-5 minutes. Keep lid on and turn the heat off. Let sit one hour. Bring the pan back to boil and simmer SLOWLY for approximately 2 hours or until beans are soft.

 METHOD 3: Do nothing at all. Pretreatment not required. Slowly simmer the beans – it will just take longer.

 HELPFUL HINTS:

 Cover legumes well with water and check water level often during cooking. Add more water as needed. Not many things smell worse than burnt beans.

  • If desired, add 1 tablespoon butter or oil to pan to prevent foaming while cooking.
  • Add salt the last 10 minutes of cooking time. Adding salt sooner prevents beans from becoming soft.
  • Acids lengthen cooking time so add tomatoes, vinegar, lemon juice (and salt) after beans are tender.
  • Simmer beans SLOWLY. Boiling causes the skins to burst and the beans to fall apart.

Cooked beans freeze well. Keep small amounts of pinto beans in freezer bags for a very fast and easy meal of refried beans and tortillas. Also soups made of legumes freeze well. Plastic freezer bags work well. To thaw quickly, set frozen bag of soup in a sink of hot water. This makes for a fast and easy meal on days when there is little time for cooking.

Legume Soups in general

With a few ingredients, any legume soup can be made very tasty. The vegetables onions, carrots and celery are basic to almost any soup. They add important flavor. Another ingredient that is delicious to add is some form of ham, ham hock, or bacon, but it is not essential. I prefer fresh ingredients when possible but when not available, I would want to have dried onions, carrots, and celery seed on hand for flavor. They are important to have in a food storage plan if you store legumes. One more item nice to have is liquid smoke. A tiny bit adds a nice flavor.

 KIDS AND BEANS

When I was in elementary school in the 1960’s, our little rural Idaho school had about 60 children in it, grades 1-8. Our wonderful cook single handedly cooked delicious hot lunches for us which were really dinners. I don’t know how she did it because it was all cooked from scratch and she did it alone – no chicken nuggets! Back then, the schools were required to use government surplus agricultural foods part of the time, hence we were served beans quite often. There would be a few complaints and sometimes not much enthusiasm; however, most of the kids ate the beans. How did our cook get us to eat the beans? She had a secret that worked. She served catsup so that any child could add it to their tray. Most did and ate their beans.  Since that time, I have thought it would be wise to store some catsup for just such occasions.

I have taken it one step further. I make chili sauce which is similar to catsup only more spicy and yummy. It really perks up a bowl of beans! Eaten with bread and butter and honey, it is a very delicious meal.

HELPFUL WEBSITES

http://missvickie.com/howto/beans/beanframe.html – Great general information as well as pressure cooking instructions

http://www.culinate.com/columns/front_burner/dried_beans

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  1. Twenty-five Pounds of Beans « Cooking on the Palouse

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