Thursday, September 8, 2011

Pressure Cooker Pinto Beans

My mom always used her pressure cooker, so growing up I learned from her as I worked alongside her.  Not everyone has had that opportunity, so I wanted to talk about some of the basics of cooking the pinto beans in a pressure cooker if you have never done it before.  This is going to be REALLY basic, step-by-step, but I've tried to put in all the information that I would want to know if I was doing it for the first time. 

So--if you have never used a pressure cooker before, know that they are amazing!  You can cook whole potatoes in 10 minutes, and dried beans (without soaking) in about 45 - 60 min.  It is really a time saver.  BUT, you need to make sure that you read all of the directions that come with it as well as make sure that all of the parts are in good working order.  NEVER use one if you haven't read the directions, or if the rubber ring is cracked.  Trust me.  Also, there are some foods that can't be cooked in them because they clog up the pressure holes.  When that happens, it is a mess.  I know, sadly, from experience.  My rubber ring was not perfect and I was cooking some type of small dried bean that was on the no-no list.  After my pressure cooker shot from my stove 12 feet and finished spraying little pieces of dried bean everywhere, I had beans on every wall in my kitchen and a nice finish of bean goop on every surface.  It took hours to clean everything.

Even with the Fiasco  I still love my pressure cooker and hope that, with proper prep, you will too.  I have to admit, that the process of sorting and cleaning the beans is so tactile that it is therapeutic and my favorite thing to cook in my pressure cooker.

So--for basic pinto beans. 

I have a 6 quart pressure cooker.  With that I usually take 1 quart of dry beans to about 3 quarts of water--though I don't usually measure it out--I just fill it mostly up with water.

It's kind of hard to see, but it is about 2 inches from the top of the pan.  This is the first thing I do.  The pressure cooker works because of boiling water, and so I try to get a head start on it cooking by getting my water started first thing, so that by the time I get my lid on it is just about ready to boil.

Next, measure out a quart of dried pinto beans.  
You will  have a little left over from your bag--if that is how you get them.  I like to buy mine in 25 lbs. bags and store them in food storage buckets, since we love eating pinto beans.  If you are making a yummy bean soup or chili, 3 cups would be enough.

Next--they need to be sorted.  Since beans grow close to the ground, dirt and small rocks get packaged with them.  I like to dump them all out on the counter. . .

then look through small piles. . .

until they are all sorted.  Make sure you go through every bean, since the rocks are usually the same size as the beans.  I also throw away any really gross looking or dirty beans.  Here are some of the little treasures that I found this time around.


Next, wash the beans really well in water.  I did mine in my colander, so the dirt just runs off, but if you wash them in a regular bowl, you really see the dirt.  Make sure that you clean them until the water is clear.

The only thing left is to pour them into your boiling water, put on the lid and the shaker, turn the heat to medium high and let it cook for 45 - 60 minutes.  DO NOT ADD SALT.  You can add it after, and it will only make the skin of the beans tough if you add it before.  Check the cooking time with your pressure cooker directions, since it may be different.  Also, make sure that you are there to hear and monitor it.  If the topper shakes too fast, turn the heat down, or turn it up if it stops shaking.  You can also call the help line for your brand if you are unsure if it is going right.

When the time is done, after it has cooled down, and the little pressure valve has gone down, make sure you take off the shaker before opening the lid.  That way you will know that all of the pressure is out of the cooker.  Your beans should be soft and some of the skins should be coming off.

Every once in a while I haven't let them cook enough, so I just put the lid and shaker back on and cook it a little longer.  

Tune in later this week to see what I made with these YUMMY beans!

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