Precooking and Freezing Beans
Last week, I read an article by Jane Mountain at Grist.com describing five packaged foods you never need to buy again. The list includes canned soup, stock/bouillon and beans; hummus and boxed cereal. I don't think we can let go of our Cheerios. Otherwise, the list is quite doeable. We already cook our own soup, stock, and hummus.
Beans? Three and a half hours in a crock pot will get garbanzos just like canned, without the sodium. Six or seven hours for Great Northern Beans... A pound of dry beans will make about four cans' worth of cooked beans. Two pounds of dry beans plus a gallon of water (4L) will net eight cans' worth, without the salt and at a significant savings. Eight cans, eh? Even when making a huge pot of chili, I have never had a use for eight cans of beans at one time.
Home canning needs salt (or sugar) for safety, so that option is out for us. How about freezing? As an experiment, I made a pot of garbanzos and a pot of Great Northern Beans, the two most-cooked at our house. I portioned the cooked beans and froze them in smaller containers, about four cups each.) I left them in the freezer for the week and took them out to see if they survived...
You can pre-cook and freeze beans! When defrosted, they were just like cooked, canned beans without the salt, without the cans, and at a fraction of the price. There you have it!
*Canned foods need a certain amount of either salt or sugar to reduce the available water for Clostridium botulinim, the anaerobic bacteria responsible for botulism. If the food inside is not completely sterilized and there is C. botulinim present, sufficient salt or sugar will keep it from growing. I'm too big a chicken to try to can low sodium foods. Some canned products are available with reduced or no sodium but they have equipment I don't have.