Onions may be added at any time during the cooking process. For a stronger onion flavor, add them during the last half-hour of cooking.
Herbs and spices like oregano, parsley, thyme and garlic may be added at any time during cooking.
Add lemon juice, vinegar, tomatoes, chili sauce, ketchup, molasses or wine after beans have been fully cooked. Wait to add these and other ingredients rich in calcium or acids, which can prevent beans from becoming tender, until the beans are tender.
Do not add baking soda to beans at any time. Baking soda robs the beans of the B-vitamin thiamin and may affect the flavor of the cooked beans.
Cooking times vary with the type and age of beans. Older beans may take longer to cook. Beans are done when their skins are still intact, but when they can be easily mashed between two fingers or with a fork. Always test a few beans to make sure they’ve cooked evenly.
Natural foam or scum in the cooking water?—Don’t worry. If you see brown foam in the pot, this isn’t dirt. It’s the protein from the beans coagulating on the surface. Simply skim off. A bit of butter or oil will prevent foaming.
Fermentation?—During hot weather, beans can ferment while soaking. You might notice fine bubbles and smell a slightly sour odor. When the room temperature is hot, soak the beans in the refrigerator.
Salt?—Salt will toughen the beans during the cooking process, so only add it when the beans are almost tender. Do not add salt to the soaking water.
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