Deep down, I know that beans are good for me. They are also a great component for whipping up simple and healthy meals. However, I also really hate opening cans to prep my meals from. They are full of preservatives, and I’ve never really gotten over the texture of canned beans (or the icky goop they are packed in).
Dry beans are fantastic. One of my favorite sources for local beans is a farm store called the Phipps Country Store in Pescadero, along the coast south of San Francisco. They grow and sell more than 75 types of heirloom beans, and I stock up whenever I’m in the area, but they also take online orders on their website. I love the texture of dry beans when they have been soaked and then slow cooked until they still have some firmness and character. However, that takes some time.
Recently, I’ve found a great way to get the best of both worlds. I cook dry beans, freeze them in 2-cup portions in ziploc bags, and then have a supply of delicious beans whenever I want!
This time of year, I can do one step better. There are fantastic cranberry beans at the farmer’s market in September, so I buy the fresh beans in their shells, and shuck them myself. They are so lovely and tender when fresh, that it only takes an hour or so to cook them (with no soaking), and they end up delicious and firm, even after you freeze them. Unfortunately, their lovely speckles fade after cooking, so enjoy them while you can!
They are great in soups and salads, and can even be turned into chili or baked beans at that point. I love adding them to homemade soups to make them more hearty. I’ll share a few uses over the next few weeks, as I get through my freezer supply.
Here’s a basic template for cooking fresh beans, though using your instincts and checking for doneness are recommended.
Preparing Fresh Cranberry Beans
- 5 lbs cranberry beans in shell
- water to cover
- 2 tbsp sea salt (optional)
Shuck your beans, and add to a large stock pot. Cover with water by at least 2″. Bring the water to a boil, then turn heat down to a simmer. I choose not to salt the beans at this point, as I’ve found it can affect the texture of the beans. I prefer to add the salt when I use the beans, but you can also add it about 10 minutes before the end of the cooking time. After about 30 minutes, begin checking the beans for texture. I’d recommend turning off the heat when they are still a bit firmer than you prefer. Let the beans fully cool in the cooking liquid, then drain and portion into sizes that seem about right for you. I use quart ziploc bags and measure out 2 cups into each. Freeze flat in their bags, then tuck away for future bean adventures!