I've spent years eating canned beans out of convenience and taste. My few experiences with dried beans usually resulted in a harder bean than what comes in a can. Recently, I discovered cooking dried beans in a crock pot produces the softer bean taste I prefer and I have no plans to return to canned beans.
Dried beans use less packaging then canned and that makes me feel better then sending tons of cans to the recycling plant. Reduce is the first step in the 3 R's (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle).
Dried beans take a day of prep work in soaking and cooking but it can be done around a work schedule or on a weekend. I prefer the weekend so I can check in on the beans after 6 hours of cooking.
Let's start with the recipe so you can get a clear understanding of what is needed:
4 Quart Recipe
- 3 quarts of crushed tomatoes (96 ounces)
- Red beans or Kidney (60 ounces or 7.5 cups)
- Black beans (60 ounces or 7.5 cups)
- 2lbs ground meat (Beef or Turkey)
- 3/4 cup chili powder
- 4 Bullion Cups (Beef or Poultry)
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon salt
You will need a 6 quart stock pot and 2 crock pots (if you only have one crock pot, you can do one set of beans a day in advance).
Some recipes recommend soaking beans all night but I find that it's not necessary with the crock pot cooking method.
Place your beans, a few at a time, into a colander and remove all cracked, shriveled beans, and rocks, then place into a pot of room temperature water to soak for an hour. I put black and red beans in separate pots because I'm usually doing them in bulk and want to separate what is not needed for this recipe to freeze for later.
If possible, use two different crock pots, one for red and one for black as they may need different cooking lengths depending on the size of the bean. Cover beans with 2 inches of water and cook for 6-8 hours on low. If using larger red beans like Kidney's, check around 6 hours because they have a tendency to split open when cooked too long. I've found small red beans to be rather hardy and can deal with an 8 hour cooking process. Black beans sometimes need slightly less, around 7 hours. Most recipes suggest to start checking on the bean around 6 hours and then every hour after until you get the right degree of softness.
If beans are cooked in tomato's for too long, it will make the bean skin tough. I've heard this before and found it verified on this webpage. Therefore we've started putting our beans in for the last 30 minutes of cooking. This works rather well considering the beans are cooking in crock pots. I suggest to start the tomato/meat base about 2 hours before you are planning to eat dinner.
Start by putting 3 quarts of tomatoes into a stock pot then adding all spices, bullion cubes and ground meat after it has been browned (drain fat before adding meat to sauce). Cook sauce at a low temperature for 1-2 hours. The tomato base really only needs to simmer for 1-2 hours depending on how much liquid you like in your Chili. I've seen some who like a lot of liquid and others who prefer a dense Chili so I suggest to base this cooking time on your personal preference for liquid content. Longer cooking time will equal less liquid.
If you prefer to add a little kick to your Chili, I suggest to put a chopped jalapeno into the tomato sauce, keep or discard seeds depending on how spicy you want the sauce to be (adding seeds makes it hotter). I use a food processor to make the jalapeno really small and I only use tongs to handle the jalapeno so as to not get the oils on my hands. They can burn hours later when removing contacts.
Final 30 minutes - add beans to the tomato/meat sauce and simmer at a low temperature. serve with your favorite toppings. We like grated Cheddar Cheese but I've seen it also served with finely chopped onions and sour cream.
For more details on cooking dried beans, I suggest this blog as they have done a great job with illustrations.
Printable Recipe Link