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Beans won't soften


Malawry
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I soaked some navy beans last night to make baked beans today. They plumped up fine in the water and looked pretty normal when I put them in the pot today. I started to boil them at 1:30pm. It's now almost 4 and they're still crunchy. They're in plain tap water, no salt, no nothing. I started them by bringing them to a hard boil, and then I cut them back to a slow simmer. When they weren't softening up after an hour and a half I brought the heat up to a slow boil. Still no dice, but now some of the beans are busting apart from the agitation. The water in my house is pretty hard, and I usually cook my beans in filtered water for this reason, but in a pennywise-pound foolish decision I didn't use the filtered stuff this time. I've given up on eating these beans for dinner tonight, but I'd still like the damn things to cook.

Is there anything I can do? Should I drain them and add fresh, filtered water and try that? Is there something I can put in the water to help the beans along? They taste as if they've barely softened up at all. I seriously doubt this is a case of old beans, they came from my natural foods co-op where I know all the dried beans have a high turnover...

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The same thing happened to me on Sunday. I soaked some Rancho Gordo Beans( Good Mother Stallard) overnight and they still took about 3 hrs to cook. I probably could have let them go another hour but my spouse wanted her burrito!!

Now I wonder if its my water.

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I have no idea whether it's true or not, but I have read many times that a little baking soda combats the effect of hard water on beans.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
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I don't know. Sometimes it's just old beans. Baking soda will increase the pH of the water which will speed the softening of beans. It's not recommended to use since it can make the beans mushy. I've used a dash of baking soda when cooking chickpeas for hummus when trying to achieve the smoothest texture possible. Not something that I would do as a rule but I did use a significant amount of salt. I know that really doesn't make the beans hard but wanted some assurance since I was going to be grinding these up anyway.

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I added about 1/2 tsp of baking soda to the beans. About an hour later, they were done. I don't know if it was brute application of heat and water or the baking soda that did it, but eventually the battle ended. The finished baked beans are delicious and the baking soda didn't change the flavor or texture at all. Next time I'll be sure I use filtered water when I cook beans in this house. I think it was the hard water and not old beans--I just bought these 2 weeks ago from a natural foods store that I know has a high turnover, and I've not had problems cooking beans from there before.

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The Rancho Gordo beans weren't old!

It could be the water. You also want the beans to enjoy a hard boil for 5-15 minutes at first before you turn the heat down low.

I also believe you can oversoak the beans. The times I've heard of problems with our beans are when they were soaked over 12 hours. I wonder if they don't start to ferment and then make the whole thing take longer.

But I cook in clay, soak from 2-4 hours and 90% of the time have beans within an hour and a half. I use a Brita for the water and I don't change it after soaking. I salt 3/4 of the way through. I fill never fill the pot over half way so there's lots of air and moisture circulating and I make sure the beans are always covered with no more than an inch of liquid. I don't know how much of this affects the time but i'm throwing out everything I do. I make beans 3-4 times a week.

Visit beautiful Rancho Gordo!

Twitter @RanchoGordo

"How do you say 'Yum-o' in Swedish? Or is it Swiss? What do they speak in Switzerland?"- Rachel Ray

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Thanks, Rancho Gordo, I knew you would weigh in on this.

The oversoaking theory is interesting. I usually soak in the fridge in the hopes of avoiding fermentation. My beans soaked for about 16 hours before I started cooking them. The rest of my actions resemble your method, except I didn't salt until they were completely done.

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