How to Flavor Soaking Dried Beans

Is there any way to add flavors to dried beans that are soaking in water?   

Is there any way to add flavors to dried beans that are soaking in water?

In the test kitchen, we often soften dried beans before cooking not simply by soaking them in water but by actually brining them, which seasons them and improves their texture. When beans soak in brine, sodium ions from the salt replace calcium and magnesium ions in the skin of the beans. Sodium ions weaken the  pectin holding the cells together, allowing more water to penetrate the skins to produce softer, more tender beans. Our formula is to soak a pound of dried beans overnight in a solution of 3 tablespoons of salt dissolved in 4 quarts of water. 

To find out if you can add other flavors via the brine, we soaked a pound of chickpeas in three brines: plain, brine with four pureed garlic cloves and an onion, and brine with 1/3 cup of pureed oregano. Many flavor compounds are only oil soluble, so we suspected that our water-based brines would not flavor the beans. 

Before cooking the chickpeas, we rinsed them well. Tasters were nearly knocked over by the onion and garlic flavor in the second batch. All tasters detected herb flavor in the oregano-brined batch. We repeated these tests with other dried beans and other herbs with similar results. 

THE BOTTOM LINE: Yes, you can add flavor to dried beans by introducing herbs, onions, or garlic to the brine that the beans soak in.



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