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Cooking Dried Beans


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#61 rancho_gordo

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Posted 03 February 2004 - 12:47 PM

Russ, I'm wiping away the tears of joy from my eyes. Thank you so much! So much great information and so many of my hunches confirmed. And new questions posed!

I also think Paula must be right about the old world beans. But I've always maintained that you need to soak Runner Cannellini (probably new world but hard to pinpoint) and Scarlet Runners (traceable to Oaxaca Mexico, 7050 BC). I can't wait to try these again. I admit to being sloppy about lid placement.

I've also heard that hard water can have an effect on beans.

Again, I can't tell you how much this thread has meant to me!
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#62 Dave the Cook

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Posted 03 February 2004 - 12:56 PM

Is there a middle way? Could you brine your beans instead of soaking in plain water?

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#63 Mudpuppie

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Posted 03 February 2004 - 01:58 PM

I always thought that the prohibition against salting beans had to do with toughening the skin of the beans rather than the actual flesh. Anyone else heard this, or am I making it up?

Yep, I've heard that. Same for acid.

I've also heard that it toughens the beans themselves.

Can't trust anybody anymore.
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#64 badthings

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Posted 03 February 2004 - 02:07 PM

Anyone know why the old-world beans benefit from soaking?

The new world beans mentioned here so far are all Phaseolus vulgaris. But I am wondering about Limas (P. lunatus). I bought some "italian butter beans" at the SF farmer's market a couuple weeks ago. I asked the guy what they were, and he said "italian butter beans," which was not particularly helpful, but which I took to mean that they were a variety of P. lunatus (even though they looked like giant cannelini).

His wife (or coworker) told me to soak them. After reading Russ's article on the subject, I just ignore this advice, but now I wonder if "butter beans," like the old world beans (which are different genera) respond differently to soaking.

I cooked them without soaking and they were fine, but the way.

#65 fifi

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Posted 03 February 2004 - 02:18 PM

I see no difference in the texture of the bean skin from salting. I gave up the no-salt routine many years ago. I go back to my original post about adding salty pork products anyway.

I am not sure about the Old World beans. I have cooked dried garbanzos (Goya brand) in my crockpot just like I do every other bean and they were great.

You do have to be careful about limas though. Some of the older varieties and fresh green ones contain enough precursors for cyanide to be a problem and should be cooked uncovered. Cases of poisoning are rare now because most varieties have been bred to reduce those precursors but if you are messing with heirlooms you might keep this in mind.
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#66 bloviatrix

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Posted 03 February 2004 - 03:35 PM

Other than chickpeas and cannelinis (sp?), what constituties "old world" beans?
"Some people see a sheet of seaweed and want to be wrapped in it. I want to see it around a piece of fish."-- William Grimes

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#67 russ parsons

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Posted 03 February 2004 - 04:57 PM

i'm not sure that cannellini beans are actually old world. i think it's just chickpeas and favas. as far as i know, everything else is post-columbian. and if you children are good, someday uncle russ will tell you a story about fava beans and the evolutionary imperative!

#68 fifi

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Posted 03 February 2004 - 05:00 PM

Ah... Favism.

Tell us a story Uncle Russ. Please. Please. Please. With sugar on it? :biggrin:
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#69 russ parsons

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Posted 03 February 2004 - 05:15 PM

well, this thread is turning into a one-man assault on the copyright laws. but i think technically i have the right to reprint my own stories ... nobody's a tribune corp lawyer, right?

anyway, how can i resist a texan named fifi: "bonjour, y'all!" (this is from '96)

Avoid fava beans.

--Pythagoras

*


What would a Greek philosopher in the 6th century BC have against one of the most common vegetables of his area and time? This has been the subject of debate almost from the moment Pythagoras completed the sentence. An incredible assortment of explanations has been offered, ranging from reincarnation to sexual symbolism.

Only relatively recently have scientists begun to think that Pythagoras may have been on to something. For some people, we now know, fresh fava beans can be poisonous. This fairly common genetically transmitted condition--called, appropriately, favism--was recognized only at the turn of this century and has been explained fully just in the last decade.

The condition is especially prevalent in the old Magna Graecia--the region ruled by the ancient Greeks--where as much as 30% of the population in some areas has it.

Whether the poisonings were the basis of Pythagoras' pronouncement or not, no one can say for certain. While today's cults seem determined to tell all about their religious beliefs, the Pythagoreans were notoriously close-mouthed.

Iamblichus tells of the time a group of Pythagoreans were being pursued by their enemies when they came across a field of favas in bloom. Rather than disobey the master's dictates and flee through the field, they were slaughtered. And when two who were captured were questioned about their beliefs, they refused to answer. The husband chose death and the wife, a Spartan, bit off her tongue and spit it at her captors to avoid spilling the beans.

As Mirko Grmek so pithily puts it in her book, "Diseases in the Greek World" (Johns Hopkins, 1991), "The Pythagorean rule of silence explains why the persons in antiquity who dared write on this subject were already in the dark." Of course, that didn't stop them from writing.

The state of the debate was pretty well summed up by Aristotle, who says that Pythagoras proscribed fava beans "either because they have the shape of testicles, or because they resemble the gates of hell, for they alone have no hinges, or again because they spoil, or because they resemble the nature of the universe, or because of oligarchy, for they are used for drawing lots."

And if you can't find something there you like, there's more. Diogenes proposed that the Pythagoreans rejected favas because they cause thought-disturbing flatulence, saying, "One should abstain from fava beans, since they are full of wind and take part in the soul, and if one abstains from them one's stomach will be less noisy and one's dreams will be less oppressive and calmer."

Despite this injunction, it should be noted that fava beans are lower in indigestible sugars--and in fiber--than many other beans. It's just that until the discovery of the Americas, they were the sole representative of beandom in Europe.

The later sect known as the Orphics believed that Pythagoras had forbidden the eating of favas because they contain the souls of the dead. "Eating fava beans and gnawing on the heads of one's parents are one and the same," went one of their sayings.

Since the Renaissance, scholars have proposed even more solutions. "Humanistic scholarship, with free association as its main guide, has offered explanations that range from the mildly ridiculous to the extremely ridiculous," wrote Robert Brumbaugh and Jessica Schwartz in a 1980 issue of the journal Classical World.

Be that as it may, the modern explanation is even more interesting. Around the turn of the century, physicians began to recognize that after eating fresh fava beans, some people began to suffer a sudden illness that, in some cases, led rapidly to death. The cause seems obvious today, but remember that it wasn't until 1904 that Clemens von Pirquet came up with the medical definition for allergies. Before that, it was difficult for scientists to get a handle on the concept that what might be fine for one person might be poison for another.

When scientists began to investigate favism, they found a genetically transmitted deficiency in a certain blood enzyme--glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (called, for obvious reasons, G6PD). In about 20% of the people with this deficiency, eating fresh fava beans can trigger a severe hemolytic anemia. Sufferers exhibit symptoms of jaundice and anemia and excrete blood in their urine. Even today, death follows for almost 10% of those who suffer this reaction, usually within a matter of days.

The condition is most common in males, by a ratio of almost 3 to 1. Only women who carry the gene from both sides of the family are susceptible. And it is most severe among infants and children; the poison can be passed in mother's milk.

We now know that there are three distinct genetic strains of G6PD deficiency. One is centered in the Greek plains, Southern Italy and the islands of the Aegean. That's precisely the area controlled by the ancient Greeks. Crotona, where Pythagoras had his settlement in the modern-day state of Calabria, is one such concentration.

Another genetic type is centered in the Mediterranean coast of Africa, particularly Egypt and Morocco. The third is in Central Asia, extending into China--which is perplexing, because the fava bean has no long history there. However, one incident of favism reported in Southern California involved a young Chinese boy who had eaten yewdow--a snack food made from fried and salted fava beans.

Although the initial medical question was answered, a more interesting evolutionary issue had been raised: Why would people continue to consume fava beans in an area where a relatively high percentage of them would get sick from eating them? Logically, one would assume that either people would stop eating fava beans or--deprived of a prime foodstuff--people carrying the genetic trait would eventually die off. Yet after more than 3,000 years of fava-eating, neither has happened.

A possible explanation began to appear in the 1920s, when scientists found that G6PD deficiency is actually a defense against malaria, historically a major health problem in Greece and Southern Italy. It occurred so often that it was accepted almost as a matter of course (much as we live with the flu). As recently as 1943, 100,000 cases of malaria were reported in one year on the island of Sardinia. The G6PD deficiency, scientists found, helps defend against malaria parasites by reducing the amount of oxygen in red blood cells.

Things became even more interesting during World War II, when doctors treating malaria with quinine-based drugs noticed that many people with favism reacted to the medicine in the same way they did to eating fava beans.

On further investigation, scientists found that fava beans contain several chemical compounds that resemble those found in quinine-based drugs. After decades of research, in the last few years they have proven that fava beans themselves also fight malaria, and in much the same way as G6PD deficiency: by reducing the amount of oxygen in the blood.

Thus, it is now theorized that what keeps the scales in balance in this evolutionary standoff is that when fava beans are consumed by people with G6PD deficiency who don't suffer from favism (the vast majority, remember), the resistance to malaria is raised even further.

Therefore, even if favas are dangerous to a certain percentage of people, their benefits to the remainder of the population far outweigh their shortcomings.

Is this the secret behind Pythagoras' puzzle? It's hard to say, 26 centuries later. One thing's for certain: He's not talking.

#70 rancho_gordo

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Posted 03 February 2004 - 06:02 PM

Other than chickpeas and cannelinis (sp?), what constituties "old world" beans?

Also lentils, lupini and peas (I know peas are not beans but you know what I mean!)
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#71 Mudpuppie

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Posted 03 February 2004 - 06:06 PM

So am I correctly deducing that "Old World beans" are those which were not cultivated in the Americas before Columbus landed?
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#72 rancho_gordo

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Posted 03 February 2004 - 06:07 PM

I bought some "italian butter beans" at the SF farmer's market a couuple weeks ago.

Oh, badthings! You can go to the somewhat facist SF farmers market and not visit me in Oakland???? :wink:
FWIW, I checked out the little Berkeley farmers market today so I may be there soon.

Now back to beans....
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#73 rancho_gordo

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Posted 03 February 2004 - 06:09 PM

You do have to be careful about limas though. Some of the older varieties and fresh green ones contain enough precursors for cyanide to be a problem and should be cooked uncovered. Cases of poisoning are rare now because most varieties have been bred to reduce those precursors but if you are messing with heirlooms you might keep this in mind.

Wow, I have never heard this. That's a little scary. Does it have to be uncovered the whole time?
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#74 fifi

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Posted 03 February 2004 - 06:24 PM

*drags out McGee yet another time*

After discussing cyanogens in fruit pits etc., McGee goes on:

Lima beans, on the other hand, are deliberately consumed, and for this reason many countries, including the United States, restrict commercially grown varieties to those with the lowest cyanogen contents. Lima beans used in Java and Burma can have 20 to 30 times the concentration allowed in Western countries. Though not entirely free of cyanogens, our lima beans are no danger to us. And residual toxin can be driven off by the simple expedient of boiling water. Hydrogen cyanide is a gas, and escapes the cooking liquid as soon as it is formed - as long as the pot is not covered.


That is why I mentioned the "heirloom" varieties. Sprouts are probably not a good idea either since they are usually consumed raw. I almost did that one time when I was into sprouting everything I could get my hands on. But it probably wouldn't have been that big a deal with the "commercial" limas in the bag on my grocery shelf.
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#75 rancho_gordo

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Posted 03 February 2004 - 06:31 PM

That is why I mentioned the "heirloom" varieties.

I have Christmas Limas, an heirloom with a distinct chestnut flavor, so I am a bit concerned.

I don't hate limas but if I never ate another, I could cope somehow. It seems fitting that they have the potential to be poison!
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#76 fifi

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Posted 03 February 2004 - 06:51 PM

When I was a kid, we always grew them and ate them a lot. I am still here. (Much to the dissappointment of some. :biggrin: ) I find it interesting that lima beans are one of those things that some people absolutely HATE, sort of like cilantro. I wonder if it is one of those genetic differences in taste perception.
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#77 cakewench

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Posted 04 February 2004 - 03:45 PM

Wow, I love you for starting this thread, fifi!

So I have a question: how does one save old beans? Yes, in the bean-plentiful US, you would probably just toss them and pick up another pack, but I am very reluctant to do so here in Germany. My mother was kind enough to mail me 3 packs of Goya black beans :wub: after I complained of not being able to make my favorite soup here (I've located canned kidney beans in the supermarkets, and that's about it). I soaked the beans overnight, I simmered in the morning once I realized I wasn't getting anywhere with the soaking alone... and still not much progress at that point. After cooking a bit longer, I finally put the soup together, and blended a larger portion of it than usual with the stick blender.

My fiance loves the soup, because it's a style of cooking he has never experienced over here. Meanwhile, I am :hmmm: because my soup is still.. grainy, or whatever you want to call the bits o'hard bean in there. I've let it simmer most of the evening now, and it seems to be becoming edible, to me, finally.

Any suggestions will be much appreciated, as I might be having this experience with the next two bags, as well.

*edited* to add that we don't have a slow cooker here!

Edited by cakewench, 04 February 2004 - 03:47 PM.


#78 bloviatrix

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Posted 04 February 2004 - 04:19 PM

I've been following this thread since the inception, and finally the urge overcame me. I decided to make a bot of black beans (it was the only kind we had in the house).

I'm using Russ's instructions, so here's what I did --

1) boil up about 3 qts water

2) preheat oven to 250

3) in large pot, place beans, 2 garlic cloves - chopped, 1 bay leaf, 2 chipotles, and 1 tsp of kosher salt. Add boiling water and bring everything back to boil

4) place pot in oven.

I'm going to check the water level every 30 minutes of so. The apartment is smelling of smokey chipotles. I'll report back when they're done.

Edited by bloviatrix, 04 February 2004 - 04:21 PM.

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#79 badthings

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Posted 04 February 2004 - 05:52 PM

Other than chickpeas and cannelinis (sp?), what constituties "old world" beans?

Cannelini are in fact a variety of Phaseolus vulgaris, "new world beans," meaning simply that they are native to the americas. The other main new world variety is P. lunatus.

My question: does "butter bean" always refer to some kind of P. lunatus?

Aside from fava and chick peas, other old world "beans" are lentils (genus Lens), soybeans (Glycine), and the various members of genus Vigna (black-eyeds, mung beans, cowpeas, etc.), which you may or may not consider beans.

Fellow dorks can waste some time on the taxonomy of Fabaceae here.

#80 bloviatrix

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Posted 04 February 2004 - 06:12 PM

Have you guys that one of the ads up top for this thread is for Camilla Red Beans and when you click on the link it says they're all sold out? I wonder if eG has something to do with that?

Anyway, my beans are done. The apartment smells like broiled hotdogs - garlicy and smokey. I took a taste of the beans - the broth is great. And the beans are nice and tender. Guess what I'm having for dinner.
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#81 hjshorter

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Posted 05 February 2004 - 12:17 PM

12 pounds of Camellia brand red beans were just dropped on my doorstep. I think I know what's for dinner. :cool:
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#82 ronnie_suburban

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Posted 05 February 2004 - 12:20 PM

12 pounds of Camellia brand red beans were just dropped on my doorstep.  I think I know what's for dinner.  :cool:

Apparently Heather, you've cornered the market :biggrin:

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#83 hjshorter

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Posted 05 February 2004 - 12:21 PM

12 pounds of Camellia brand red beans were just dropped on my doorstep.  I think I know what's for dinner.   :cool:

Apparently Heather, you've cornered the market :biggrin:

=R=

Whaddya mean? :unsure:
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#84 ronnie_suburban

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Posted 05 February 2004 - 12:35 PM

12 pounds of Camellia brand red beans were just dropped on my doorstep.  I think I know what's for dinner.   :cool:

Apparently Heather, you've cornered the market :biggrin:

=R=

Whaddya mean? :unsure:

Directly above your post, Bloviatrix posted that the after she clicked on the ad/link to the Camilla Red Beans (at the top of the page), she learned that they were sold out. Now, 12 pounds of them show up at your door...I was just being silly, or trying to be anyway. :smile:

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#85 hjshorter

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Posted 05 February 2004 - 12:41 PM

I get it. :laugh:

Damn, maybe I could fence them and earn some real money. :raz:
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#86 rancho_gordo

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Posted 05 February 2004 - 12:42 PM

Yesterday I made a small batch of some rare Flor de Junio I was hoarding. Just to tempt fate, I sauteed some onions and garlic in a wee bit of bacon fat, added the dry beans, coated them, then water. Then I held my breath and salted lightly. And it worked. Once cooked. these tasted like "better the next day" beans and less than half the amount of salt I'd normally use.

This is really great!
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#87 oatmeal

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Posted 05 February 2004 - 04:05 PM

All this talk of successful non soaked salted beans is making me nervous. For years I have yelled at my co-workers when they tried to cook unsoaked beans. "What, do you want to give everyone in town gas?" I'd cry. Then I'd catch someone out of the corner of my eye putting some salt in a pot of cooking beans. Again the yelling, "What, do you want to serve tough beans?" and "Don't you know that the liquid is going to reduce and we will have a huge pot of overly salted beans?" Have I been a fool? Tomorrow, before anyone shows up at work, I am going to cook some unsoaked white beans with salt. I can hardly wait.

#88 marie-louise

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Posted 05 February 2004 - 07:02 PM

All this talk of successful non soaked salted beans is making me nervous. For years I have yelled at my co-workers when they tried to cook unsoaked beans. "What, do you want to give everyone in town gas?" I'd cry. Then I'd catch someone out of the corner of my eye putting some salt in a pot of cooking beans. Again the yelling, "What, do you want to serve tough beans?" and "Don't you know that the liquid is going to reduce and we will have a huge pot of overly salted beans?" Have I been a fool? Tomorrow, before anyone shows up at work, I am going to cook some unsoaked white beans with salt. I can hardly wait.

I was skeptical, too. So I cooked two pots of the same beans, side by side, one salted, one not. (I don't think I tried soaked versus not.) The difference was amazing. You might want to try 3 or 4 variations on the methods of soaking, salted vs. not, and then have a taste test at work.

PS Thanks, Russ Parsons. Someone posted a link to your first article on another cooking board years ago. I didn't realize that you were the person that wrote it until I recently came across your name on my notes (I just thought of it as "that LA Times article." ) I like beans so much more now that I cook them this way!

#89 Rachel Perlow

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Posted 17 March 2004 - 04:04 PM

* One chef told me he never allowed his beans to be cooked on top of the stove. Only by cooking them in the oven is it possible to get the slow, steady pace they need, he claimed.

I cooked beans both on top of the stove and in the oven. With constant attention and a ready flame-tamer, I could manipulate the temperature well enough to keep the beans at a sufficiently slow simmer. But, covered, in a 250-degree oven, the cooking was almost effortless. All I had to do was check every half-hour or so to make sure there was sufficient water.

The effect of the cover was particularly amazing. Cooking beans in one test without a cover took six hours. The same quantity of beans, cooked at the same temperature with a lid, was done in about 1 hour, 15 minutes ( without pre-soaking).

I'm trying this method right now. I brought about 2 quarts of water to a boil in my 5 quart oval Le Cruset, added 1 lb of unsoaked small red and white beans and 1 tsp salt and returned to the boil. Slapped the lid on and put in the oven.

Is this enough water or should I check the beans?

I just checked them and there was lots of steam when I moved the lid. But I put it right back on. That heavy lid must lend almost a pressure cooker level of pressure and I didn't want to lose it in case that lends to the beans quick cooking.

#90 Rachel Perlow

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Posted 17 March 2004 - 05:37 PM

OK, count me in the "I can't believe it really worked" camp, a la roasted cauliflower! After an hour and fifteen in the oven, the beans were done. Period. No soaking, and they held their shape while not being too firm at all. In fact, next time if I'm going to use them in a way that they will be cooked additionally (I'm making chili), I'd take them out after an hour.

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Russ Parsons!

I can't believe that the old soak & boil for hours method is still the recommended one. We need to spread the word. At the very least this should be a Daily Gullet article. Hallelujah!