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Help! How to soften hard beans?

topic posted Tue, January 2, 2007 - 1:10 PM by 
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I'm simmering a pot of flavorful cuban black beans on the stove this morning. the flavor is great but the problem is the black beans never softened up! I soaked them overnight and *did not add salt*. They've been on a slow boil/simmer for nearly three hours now and they're still hard and crumbly.

Is there any hope that I'll soften them up or will I have to thow them out and start over? Any remedies at this stage of the game that any of you have in your back pocket?

One thing I didn't do that I normally do with dry beans is I didn't pour off the soaking water this morning and renew with fresh water. I'd soaked the beans with a split green pepper and didn't want to lose the flavor. Stupid, though, because how much flavor would a raw pepper really impart in the soak water anyway? I wonder if this contributed to the problem? Or maybe there's something funky with the beans themselves. Too old? Something?

I nearly made this by flavoring canned black beans with the sofrito, but then admonished myself for being lazy. Wishing I would have now.

Gah. It smells so good and the texture is so baaaaaad.
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    sounds to me that the beans may have been too old, i have never had that problem after soaking any type of bean overnight. I;ve cooked the beans in the water that i used to soak them in before, so I don't think that is the problem
    • Check out this site: www.centralbean.com/

      They list old beans (which I believe is anything over a year old or from the previous bean crop, not the current one) and hard water as causes for hard beans. Significantly, they say that adding salt at the beginning only has a minor effect on the cooking time and a major effect on the flavor. I always add salt at the beginning and haven't had any problems with beans cooking. Course I am at sea level -- if you live above 3,500' in elevation it might be desireable to get a pressure cooker.