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Dry beans and peas

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Dry beans and Peas

To some this may seem like it is not needed, but too many just starting out with cooking the old ways that have had no experience with cooking dried legumes.  These were often eaten fresh in season buy picking when imature and simply cooking like other vegetables or were allowed to mature and dry, making an easy to store and transport source of food.

The dry beans eated in the US are most commonly one of two species of New World beans, the most common is Phaseolus vulgaris or Common bean.  These include Great Northern, Pinto, Kidney, Navy and Red beans as well as dozens of other lesser known cultavars.  The other major bean is Phaseolus lunatus or Lima bean a larger flat bean that when used as dry beans are called butter beans by some.

When we think of peas most today think of Pisum sativum also known as Garden or English peas, these are most often eaten fresh as well as canned and frozen.  Whole mature, dried peas are seldom seen today although were a common staple in the past, in fact most cultavars grown today have too high of a sugar content to make good dried peas because as the mature and the sugars turn to starch the the inside shrinks and become very wrinkled and tough.  Most if not all the dried peas used are a smaller, starchier type that is hulled and split along the natural lines, creating what we call split peas.

We also have another species of legumes known as peas, likely eaten more than dried garden peas, these being Vigna unguiculata, also known as Cow or Field Peas.  The most well known of these is the Black Eyed Pea although other cultavars are known as White Eye, Cream, Crowder and Purple Pod.

The last one I'm going to mention is Lentils, Lens culinaris, these did not see much use in 19th century America due to not a lot of immergrents from the regions where they were commonly used as well as there was little production of them in the US, most seen in markets were imported.

There are other legumes that are eaten by humans but played little if any role in 19th century America.

Discussing cooking dry beans and peas in cast iron will sometimes cause controversy, some say it shouldn?t be done, it strips the seasoning and some claim it will cause the beans to sometimes turn grey and have a metallic taste, but in my experience, as long as everything is seasoned well and you stay away from iodized salt there are no problems with this and I have cooked more than a few beans in cast iron.   

Dry beans typically double in size after cooking, exact amount depends on the exact bean type, but this is a general rule of thumb   Average serving size places list are ? cup of dry beans per person, but note this will only make about ? cup of cooked beans so one must plan accordingly.   

Dry beans  and peas also need soaking before cooking, this is not needed with the hulless split peas and lentils.  This can be done in one of two ways, but before the beans are soaked they need to be sorted and any bad beans and rocks and dirt need to be removed, then the beans are rinsed in cold water.  The beans then are placed in a large container, add 5 cups or a little more of water to each cup of beans and let soak over night.   Drain water, rinse and cover with water or broth and simmer till tender, this will take about 45 minutes to an hour.   

If there is not the time to let them soak over night  then to speed things up sort and rinse beans as above, cover with water as above and bring to a boil, remove from the fire and let set about an hour.  Rinse and cover with cold water, simmer as above although cooking time may be longer.   

Any spices, herbs or items like onions, garlic and ham, bacon or other similar items can be added at the start with either method.  The amount of water used will vary as to what one wants, use more water for a thinner product and you have bean soup, use less and you have boiled beans. 

When making beans in camp, I usually just cook them with some onion, salt, pepper and some bacon  or other cured pork and serve it as a side dish, I like to make far more than will be eaten at the meal, the leftovers will get a few more spices and some molasses, sorghum syrup or brown sugar and sometimes other items like ketchup, these will be made into baked beans.   There are plenty of baked bean recipes out there, I never really follow one, but just base it off some sweetener and what ever else I decide to add.   

Baked beans need to be cooked at a low heat, since they are already cooked I just use coals on the top of the lid, I start out with enough to cover the lid and then add a small amount as needed to keep the oven running slow (about 250F ) for several hours.   Baked beans from leftovers were a common breakfast dish in the past and will go over well in a historical camp, most cooks are up a couple times in the night anyway to tend to things so they are not a problem to put on before bed time and keep going through the night to have ready for breakfast in the morning.   

This allows one to get two meals out of very little prep time, one can also make refries with leftover pinto beans or similar beans, these with bacon, ham scraps or such cooked in them are excellent, when cooking for large groups any time you can get an almost free meal as far as labor is concerned it is good.   

 Split peas are covered with water with out soaking, after rinsing and cooked till almost mushy, we call it split pea soup and was often called pease porridge in the past.     Lentils are treated the same but tend not to break up like the split peas do.   If one cooks the split peas with some ham and seasonings of choice we often call it today ?split pea and ham soup? although it is the pease porridge of our childhood nursery rhymes.   Like the beans, the amount of water will control how thick it is.

Professor Marvel:
Thanks Del

All these bean and pea recipes are safe for our food restrictions, and I had no idea aboit soaking & etc.

How do the dried peas and beans store? Is there anything special to do for a 50# sack?
Any concerns about worms, weevils, or wolverines getting into them?

Prof Marvel

Keep them dry and sealed.

One of them new fangled vacuum sealers ought to be great.


You can get old time dried whole garden peas. They look like light green buck shot. Just go to an Hispanic supermarket. The package will say "chicharos". And there will be more types of dried beans and peas than you knew existed.
In dry Art, Texas

Baked beans were a popular breakfast dish in the past and are still loved by many today. You have provided tips on how to make baked beans in low heat and have suggested using coals on the top of the lid to keep the oven running slow for several hours.
In fact, baked beans have been a staple breakfast dish for centuries and continue to be loved by many today. While they are often associated with traditional cowboy breakfasts, baked beans can be enjoyed by anyone who loves a hearty and satisfying breakfast.

If you're looking to make baked beans in low heat, there are a few tips you can follow to ensure they turn out perfectly. One technique is to use coals on top of the lid to keep the oven running slow for several hours. This slow-cooking method helps the flavors to develop and intensify, resulting in a delicious and flavorful dish.

One variation of baked beans that has gained popularity in recent years is cowboy caviar. This dish is similar to traditional baked beans but incorporates a variety of additional ingredients such as black beans, corn, and tomatoes. The result is a hearty and flavorful dish that is perfect for breakfast or any time of day.


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