Friday, September 3, 2010

Cooking Fresh Beans - When to Salt?

I don't know where it started, but some people (you know the ones) say you shouldn't add salt when cooking beans. Now, I'm fairly sure these people are talking about dried beans, but I wanted to try this out with some fresh beans, because they are all over the market right now. I can always try dry beans later.  I got six different types, Perignon, Coco, Calypso, Pink Butter, Cannellini, and Flageolet. I tried them with and without salt, what follows is how to cook them with salt.
Salt and water brine, at a 3.2% salt concentration
Shelling Beans
Garlic Cloves
Thyme Sprigs
Black Peppercorns
Place the shelled shelling beans into a bag and cover them with the brine, they shouldn't be swimming in a lot of extra liquid. Add a few whole garlic cloves (I did not bruise or smash them, only peeled), sprigs of thyme, and black peppercorns depending on how much you like those things and how many beans you have. Seal the bag, making sure to get all of the air out, and place it in a pot of boiling water. Cover the pot and turn the flame down so it maintains a temperature between 205-210F. Cook, stirring every 20 minutes for 1 hour and 15 minutes.
The overcooked, unsalted calypso beans.

Properly cooked/seasoned beans (any mashed bits are from the garlic cloves)

I bagged all of the different types of beans separately, but I cooked them all in the same pot of water at the same time. They were all done, to what I thought was perfection, at the same time, regardless of the variety. The only exception was the unsalted. The unsalted beans were slightly over cooked and tasted watery (even after adding salt after cooking).
I conclude that cooking fresh shelling beans in heavily salted water is good for their flavor and texture. It seasons them on the inside and prevents them from overcooking. Be warned that cooking them in this high of a salt solution will prevent you from using this liquid directly(the beans are awesome on their own, they could even take more salt if you love that sort of thing,). However, the liquid will taste too salty to most people. You could back it down to 2.2% brine, but then the inside of your beans wont be as nicely seasoned. I prefer this method because you still can use all of that glorious bean cooking liquid to season other stuff and the inside of these beans are creamy and seasoned.



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