Beans: To soak or Salt – That Is the Question
By PAULA WOLFERT
This sidebar is a supplement to The Clay Mystique
It’s long been thought that soaking minimizes the chance of gas, but that’s now been debunked. So why do I still soak beans? Because it gives me better control over the dish. Having already been softened and expanded (by roughly 300 percent), soaked beans readily accept flavorings during cooking. (Steve Sando of Rancho Gordo Beans adds this: “In a side by side study, soaked beans have a better texture.”)
I strongly recommend the use of filtered water for both soaking and cooking beans, because the mineral content of well water and the chlorine and/or other chemical content of city water will slow down cooking and effect taste. The two popular Mediterranean “Old World” beans, favas and chickpeas, require at least 8-24 hours of soaking. On the other hand, “New World” beans, such as cannellini, lingots, pintos, etc., require just 4 hours.
To boost the flavor I tend to soak my beans in salted water, especially if they’re marked “heritage” or “heirloom.” On the other hand, if the beans are more than a year old, a salty soak will simply toughen them. So know the age of your beans.
Excerpted from Mediterranean Clay Pot Cooking, by Paula Wolfert, copyrighted and used by permission of the publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.