Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Deflatulating the Musical Fruit

Most of us have a love/fear relationship with beans. They taste great, especially cooked up slow with a nice ham hock or as chili beans and other endless variations. However, the inevitable trumpet calls later on make us back off from these nutritional powerhouses. The reason for the gas is we humans can't fully digest the carbs while they're in the small intestine, so when they are pushed on to the large intestine our friendly flora go to work, causing fermentation. Fermentation makes gas, kind of like beer and champagne, only not in a good way.

Here's a method for cooking our dried beans which greatly decreases the gas factor, using baking soda. First soak your dried beans. There are two methods: pour the beans in a pot and cover with cold water plus an extra inch, cover, and let sit over night. Alternatively, bring the beans and water to a boil, and simmer for 3 - 5 minutes. Turn off heat, cover, and let sit 1 hour.

Second, drain the beans and rinse in a colander or other strainer. Cover with water again, bring to a full boil and add 1/2 teaspoon baking soda or enough to make the water foam up. Simmer well for 5 minutes. Turn off heat and let sit uncovered until beans and liquid are completely cool. Allow 1 to 2 hours as needed. Drain and rinse well.

Add water again and cook at a simmer. They will be tender in about 20 minutes, depending on the type of bean used. At this point you can add your beans to whatever extravaganza you have percolating and hopefully can give them plenty of time to absorb flavors. My mom, who is a whiz at learning new tidbits gave me this method. She insists that adding any seasoning, especially salt, to these gems before they are tender will toughen the skins. I have read many contradictory declarations on this subject; I will say I used the above method and my beans came out tender.

While my 1 pound of pinto beans were being degassed on Sunday I used my crock pot to cook a nice all natural ham hock I picked up at Whole Foods. I threw half a chopped onion, 1 chopped clove garlic, a dash of cayenne, about 4 cups chicken broth, a teaspoon each soy and Worcestershire sauces and the hock in the crock and set it on high. By the time the beans had been worked over the hock was starting to get tender. I let them cook another 2 or more hours; my preference is that the meat is falling off the bone. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Using a crock pot in the summer is handy, it doesn't heat up your kitchen, plus it's hands-off. Pretty easy, right?

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