Two Christmases ago I asked for a pressure cooker. I wanted to start cooking dried beans and a pressure cooker seemed like the fastest way to go. I had seen a cooking demo where the woman used a pressure cooker and talked about how fast different foods could be cooked at. It seemed amazing. I’m a fan of anything fast and easy. Besides being cheaper to cook dried beans, I also wanted to make them in the pressure cooker to avoid the BPA in the lining of most canned beans.
I was a little nervous using it the first time- imagining the pot exploding everywhere. But it worked completely fine. Apparently they’re made safer than they used to be. My pressure cooker looks like a regular pot, but on the top the lid locks into place. For beans you can either soak them overnight or add a bit of time to the cooking. I find that soaking is the easiest. Then you put them in the pot covered with like an inch or two of water, lock the lid in place and turn the pressure knob to 2. Turn the burner on high and after a few minutes it will start to make a little sound and then the pressure comes out of the knob. Black beans cook for about 6 minutes, Great Northern for 8 and Chickpeas for 14. Then I turn the burner off and let the pressure come down naturally for about 10 minutes until the button on the handle goes down and I can unlock the lid. Usually there’s still a little pressure left in the pot and I turn the knob to let the rest of it out. I bought a cookbook for pressure-cooking that has a list of cooking times. It also has different recipes that can be made completely in the pressure cooker. I have made chili all at once, but find it most useful just for cooking the beans separately.
Until recently I would cook the beans for what I needed that day. But that meant I was often relying on canned beans because those are faster than even 20 minutes in the pressure cooker, which defeated avoiding the BPA. I recently came up with an easy solution by pressure cooking a couple of bags of dried beans at a time and then storing them in Mason jars in the freezer. The jar is about the size of a can of beans and defrosts easily. I bought regular Ball jars at first but then read that the wide mouth jars are better for freezing. (I had a regular jar explode on me when I put it in the microwave on full power rather than defrost). I now have the pint size and 24 oz. size wide mouth. I also bought a pack of plastic screw on lids that are convenient for storage in the freezer and fridge.
*Update- I had read an article from 2010 that mentions that the Ball metal lids have BPA in the lining of them. But the plastic screw lids don’t. However, I contacted Ball and the representative wrote back that BALL AND KERR LIDS ARE NOW BPA-FREE! From the email: “Ball and Kerr lids are now BPA-free! Jarden listened closely to customer concerns about bisphenol A (BPA) in the coating of Ball and Kerr home canning lids. Over the past three years, we have extensively studied the different coating and base material options available in the industry that meets the technical requirements of home canning. The dedicated work of our in-house engineers and scientists along with our outside partners has culminated in a bisphenol A- (BPA-) free coating for home canning lids.”
Having the beans premade in the right size makes using the beans super convenient. A pint jar is also the perfect size to store half of a can of large tomatoes in the freezer. I’ve been buying larger size Muir Glen Organics because their cans are BPA-free and the larger size is cheaper per oz. Another side benefit of the extra jars is that I can use them to store dried beans in a nicer looking way— and can use the jars to store leftovers or other small food, like pieces of lemons or ginger that I would have otherwise put in a plastic bag.
The other night I made a white bean stew from a recipe from the book (and blog) Dinner a Love Story using some frozen Great Northern beans. I modified it a bit and didn’t put in the sausage (though I have made it with soy sausage and that’s really good). For my version I sautéed an onion and garlic (I don’t put any oil since when you cover the onion on med low it usually doesn’t stick), added ½ tsp. of red pepper flakes, a can of tomatoes, and 32 oz. of water (I didn’t have vegetable broth), and the defrosted beans. This cooks on high until it boils, then I added some torn up collards to cook for a few minutes until it wilted. With a little salt and pepper it’s ready to eat.