How long are dried beans good?
I've heard that dried beans last forever. I don't doubt that they "last" as I'm sure they aren't "bad" but I have to wonder if they will still taste any good. I've had a bag of garbonzo beans in my pantry for about 2 years now. Will they still taste good if I cook them?
According to Bittman, beans lose nutrients as they get old, and also take longer to cook, but they do last. I was researching this very issue today as I prepared to cook some 3 year old garbanzos. I'll let you know how they come out.
The older your dried beans, the higher the chance that when you cook them, they will refuse to soften well. Garbanzos are already a longer cooking variety. You probably want to start with a fresh pack of those if you are cooking and the meal has to come off without any glitches that evening. But if you don't have guests, it is just beans, water, and time, so you don't have much to loose by trying to cook them up. I've eaten beans that old. If they do soften, they've tasted just fine. They don't always soften, though, or more likely, they soften unevenly.
I've found that it really does matter where you buy dried beans. Places with good turnover are best.
Last week my husband cooked 2-year old dried pintos for three days, and they never softened. I seem to remember reading (somewhere, sometime) that adding a small amount of baking soda to the water would help beans soften. Does anyone know if this works? I tried Arm & Hammers website - no mention of using in cooking, and no place to ask a question that I could find. Hope someone here knows and will answer. Thanks.
I've seen this suggested in a variety of places as well. The sources that I trust promote this for people with hard water, and not for average cooking. Thus, the soda serves to make your water more like normal in its behavior. I've also seen it suggested specifically for garbanzos, since they are more difficult to soften.
I do have hard water, and pintos will always cook up for me. However, I have an excellent source of pintos, so they are not old. I haven't tried to use the baking soda, therefore. You might like to try, though, if you have very hard water. The Bean Bible suggests one eighth of a teaspoon for one pound of dried beans. James Peterson suggests using a "pinch" or switching to bottled water for the cooking liquid.
Baking soda is edible, of course, so it can't hurt to try.