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Friday, December 18, 2009
Their main drawback is the amount of time and resources they take to prepare. While this isn't generally an issue if you have access to water from the tap, and gas or electricity from a utility company, in a grid down situation, this can be a major problem.
The traditional way of preparing beans first involves a pre-soak. You take the dry beans, throw them in a pot with triple the volume of water, and let them soak for 6 to 8 hours. You then pour away any remaining water, and add more water to cover the beans by an inch or so. They are then brought to a boil, then slow cooked for another 3 hours or so.
Lots of time and resources.
My local grocery store has a bulk foods section that had this ground mix labeled, "Refried Beans". The instructions said that you added 1 cup of boiling water to 3/4 cups of the mix, stirred it well, covered it for 10 minutes and viola! - refried beans. This bean mix cost $4.75 a pound!
We did our weekly meal using emergency prep foods on Wednesday (burritos using beans, spices and home-canned meat from our prep stores) . I doubled the amount of beans (a total of 2 lbs dry) so I could do this test.
I took what was originally about 1 pound of beans that had since been cooked as described above (no seasoning whatsoever), got as much liquid out of them by letting them sit in a strainer for 10 minutes, and put them in my dehydrator. I needed 4 trays in my American Harvest dehydrator, which I set on 140F degrees.
After two hours, I turned off the dehydrator, and moved around the beans that had clumped together - trying to ensure each bean was getting fully dried. I let it run another two hours. I'd estimate that a good 95% of the beans were done - quite dry and brittle. I stirred things up again, and let it go for another hour to ensure everything was fully dehydrated.
I wanted to do my test with the beans in their whole state and in a ground up state. I took 1/2 cup of each and put them in separate bowls. The part I ground up just went into a coffee grinder that I gave a couple of pulses.
The whole beans kind of looked like dry roasted peanuts with the skins on. Most of them had developed cracks and splits.
I added about 3/4 cups of boiling water to each bowl, stirred them up and covered them. I set a timer for 5 minutes, and gave them a try.
Both the whole and ground beans were not yet fully rehydrated. There were little bits that had that undone-bean mouth feel.
I covered them for another 5 minutes and tried again. Still a bit underdone. Five more minutes, and they were perfect! Well, at least in flavor and mouth feel.
Here is a picture of the same batch of beans that had NOT been dehydrated/rehydrated -
Honestly, the taste and feel of the rehydrated beans was the same as the regular beans. As you can see, they don't look quite as pretty, but in a grid down situation, who cares? Also, if you were out camping, these would be a fantastic quick and nutritious meal for the trail.
I'm guessing that if they had been added to water which was then brought to a boil, taken off the heat and covered, they would have been ready in no more than 10 minutes.
These are absolutely going to become a part of my prep stores. While I won't make a special batch of beans to do this, I WILL do as I did with this batch - I'll double up the recipe and dehydrate half of it.
Also, my next batch will be with seasoned beans. No meats or fats, just vegetables, herbs and spices. That will make one less thing to have to worry about if we don't have access to all of our supplies.
Accept The Challenge
Give dehydrating cooked foods a try. We have done wheat (making bulgur wheat) in the past, and now beans. I'm going to be trying beef in the near future, as the price of the dehydrated/freeze dried stuff is obscene. Great tasting, but the price is just too high to have much on hand.
I have a near obsession with Just Add Water foods and meals that I can make myself. I'll share some of these main courses and soups in the future.
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