Bisphenol-A is a nasty chemical that's been in the news lately for its bad reputation and being found in baby bottles and various plastics. BPA is also found in the lining of canned goods. Although I'm glad that there is some public outrage and change occurring where baby bottles are concerned, I'm surprised that there hasn't been more of a fuss about canned goods containing BPA. I generally avoid purchasing canned foods and have come up with some easy and healthy replacements. Beans are actually fairly easy to rehydrate and freeze for later use.
I purchase a big bag of dried beans and soak them all at once, freezing them in can sized portions. My crock-pot makes this super easy to do. First, place beans in the crock-pot and cover them with plenty of water. Leave them (no heat) to soak overnight. In the morning, pour out the water, rinse, and cover with more water. Turn the crock-pot to low (or high) and cook all day until the beans are the right texture.
There isn't really a science to this, I tend to leave them too long and overcook them, but they still work just fine in my recipes. Today I had a large bag of beans and put them on low for most of the day. I checked them and they were still hard so I turned it up to high for about an hour, forgot about them and was leaving to run errands so I put them back on low. I turned the crock-pot off at dinner time and then let them cool while I got the girls in bed and came back to deal with the beans. They just need to cook a good long time until they are soft and ready to use in recipes.
I use my canning funnel to help me scoop the beans into jars. I fill each jar almost to the top with beans and add a bit of the cooking liquid. If I had enough jars I would just use the canning jars and white plastic Ball freezer lids, but I have to use some ziploc freezer bags too. To fill the freezer bags I first fill a glass jar and then dump it into the bag. I'm picky about letting the beans cool completely before I do this because I do not want to heat the plastic bag at all. I put the glass jars in the refrigerator to be sure they are completely chilled before freezing. Label your bags and jars, stick them in the freezer, and there you have it, "canned" black beans all ready to use. To use the beans in a recipe simply thaw them out in the refrigerator overnight and use them like you would a normal can of black beans (rinsing the water out before use).
We try to include beans in our diet as a healthy source of protein, fiber, and vitamins. Black Beans and Rice is one of our favorite easy meals (from Simply In Season). We use black beans in tacos, bean and corn salsa, added to spaghetti, chicken tortilla soup, homemade refried beans, and more. I got 9 "cans" of beans from my bag of dried black beans today. Its much cheaper this way, as well as being healthier for you. I've done this with Kidney beans as well and it worked just fine.
As far as avoiding other canned goods - we buy fresh or frozen vegetables, make our own soups, buy spaghetti sauce in glass jars, and I freeze fresh chopped tomatoes (in place of cans of diced tomatoes). I'm still working on cream of soup recipes that I like, but we try not to use recipes with cream of soups in them too often anyway. I just checked my pantry and I only have a couple canned items in there, we've been pretty successful at avoiding BPA in canned foods. Have you found any other tricks to avoiding canned goods that you'd like to share? (and why am I blogging about this instead of cleaning up the mess I made in the kitchen?)
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