Cooking legumes from scratch rather than using canned beans is cheaper and better for the environment because there is less packaging. I also find they taste better, and that making a large batch to store in the freezer is very convenient.
There are so many things you can do with cooked legumes, from making soups, stews, and curries, to dips, pates, and burgers.
There are many varieties of legumes. Above is just a sampling. From the top center going clockwise, I have Black Turtle Beans, also know as Blackbeans, Brown Lentils, Red Lentils, White Beans, and Chickpeas.
Cooking legumes is a very simple process but it is most efficient to set aside some time on the weekend and cook a couple of different batches at once.
The first step is to thoroughly wash your beans to remove any debris. Put them in a large colander or rice strainer and rinse under cold water.
Put the rinsed beans in a large stock pot and cover them with cold water to about three inches above the beans. You can let them soak over night if you wish and cook them the next day. A quicker method is to bring them to a boil, let them simmer for five minutes, remove them from the heat, and let them sit for at least one hour. This will allow them to absorb most of the water and lesson the cooking time.
After the beans have soaked you need to rinse them one more time. Return them to the pot and add more cold water to cover them to at least three inches above the beans. Make sure to allow enough room in the pot that it won't boil over. If you are going to add salt, do not do it until the end of the cooking process, or your beans will be tough.
Bring the water to a boil and simmer with the lid on until your beans are tender. The time will vary depending on the size of the bean. I find that chickpeas take about 45 minutes to an hour. You do not have to pre-soak lentils.
When tender, remove your legumes from the heat and let them cool in their broth. Otherwise they will dry out when you store them in the freezer.
When they are cool, drain well and put them in conveniently sized containers in the freezer. Two cup servings work well for the two of us. Then you can thaw them briefly in the microwave. They will be handy for salads, stews, dips, or whatever you need.
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