Thursday, March 5, 2009

Can The Cans

Ok, I know you can recycle those tin cans that we buy food in. But there are several good reasons to forgo the canned food. First of all, by the time that the food makes it into the can it doesn't have much nutritional value. Secondly, the more your food has been processed (which is what is happening to it as it's canned) the more chance there is to have some sort of contamination or adulteration. Probably the biggest reason to ditch the can is taste and texture. Fresh food tastes so much better than canned.

Storage is an issue for some foods, fresh can not last as long as canned, if that's a concern, frozen is a much better option.

One way we've been able to reduce our can usage is by buying dried beans. We started this a while back for a couple of reasons, dried beans cost less, are less processed and they don't have as much waste. We thought it would be hard to make the switch because planning ahead is not our best skill. However, it hasn't proven to be hard at all. And now that we've made the switch we'll never go back. Cooked beans taste so much better than canned and they have a much nicer texture.

Cooking beans is so easy and only takes a little planning ahead. The night before, we pull out a large bowl, dump some beans into it, I love to mix different varieties together, and cover it with water. And you're done for the night.

At some point the next day a couple of hours before I want to eat the beans, I start cooking them. Sometimes, we don't end up being able to cook the beans the next day and it's no big deal. Just rinse them and they will last another night. I wouldn't let them go longer than that, though.

To cook the beans, just put them in a large pot and cover them with water. How long it will take to cook the beans depends on a couple of factors. Fresher beans will cook faster, if your beans are older they will take longer. No way to know this really if you didn't grow them. So, allow yourself some flexibility. If your beans are smaller, they will also cook faster. I would say for most small beans that have been soaked overnight, such as small black beans or adzuki beans, they will take about an hour to an hour and a half. Larger beans, such as kidney or pinto, could take between 2 hours and 15 minutes to three hours. It also kind of depends on the temperature you cook them at. My favorite and the easiest way is to allow myself about 2 1/2 hours to cook them. I bring the beans to a boil, cover them and then allow them to cook over low heat for the next couple of hours. I add a couple of bay leaves now to add some flavor, but that's it for now. I've been playing around with trying to reduce the amount of electricity it takes to cook my beans. So, I've been bringing them to a boil, covering them and turning off the heat and letting them sit. To cook them this way usually takes a little longer and I usually have to bring them to a boil a second time to get them cooked all the way. It's a little more tedious process but again I'm trying to reduce resources. Once the beans are close to a softness and texture that you like, I may add some seasoning, depending on what I'm going to use them for.

So, can the cans. You can start with just one item, like beans and you'll never go back to your old tin ways.

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