Friday, May 13, 2016

Cooking Beans in a Home-made Thermal Cooker

My Large Home-Made Thermal Cooker  (Sorry photo is tilted)
This is one of my thermal cookers.  A few days ago I tried cooking a soup ( a recipe I got on facebook) with beans, rice, dehydrated vegetables and seasonings for a group, but the beans were not done.  Everything else was and the flavor was good but the great northern, small white beans and split peas were not completely tender. Disappointing.

     So I did some research and found a book, "Let's Make Sense of Thermal Cooking Cookbook" by Cindy Miller.  I found out how she uses beans in her thermal cookers.  

     Her process is to thermal pre-cook the beans first and then use them with a recipe for thermal cooking, later.  So I tried her process and was successful!  ( I think pre-cooking the beans in a solar oven would work well also...if good clear day)

4 cups of dry beans,  soak in a bowl with enough water to keep them all wet as they expand and add 1 TBS Real Salt ....for 20-24 hours. 
Next day drain and rinse the beans and add to a large heavy pot.  I use a new, 5 quart iron, Dutch Oven without the "feet" for mine.  Add 8 cups of water and 1 tsp. Real Salt and bring to a boil on the stove.   It took about 35-40 minutes to get all that water, beans and pot hot enough to boil.  I then timed the boiling for 20 minutes.  I wanted the heat and steam to build up so I inserted a toothpick between lid and pot to off steam a little without it dribbling down the side of the pot.  

     After 20 minutes of cooking, I used hot pot holders and buried the lidded pot in my home-made thermal cooker.  I had a silicon pad at the bottom on top of the pillow so it wouldn't burn the pillow. I then enclosed it with the old towel and put the foam lid on top.  I waited 6 hours and 15 minutes.  

   The iron pot was still hot enough to send me for the hot pad holders to get it out.  But the beans were PERFECT!  (picture of them not perfect-too dark)  Not burned, not chewy, just right and tender and still hot.  Wow!   It worked.    
The inside of my cooker is insulated with some old foam sheeting that was on one of our beds, cut to size and pushed into old pillow cases.  2 old pillows on the bottom and the top is made of more foam sheeting cut into 3 concentric circles with another old bath towel stitched around it to fit the top of the plastic bucket.  

Cindy Miller's continued recipe is to use the cooked tender beans in a recipe and dehydrate the rest for future use.  That is just what I did.  I cooked up some bacon, carrots, onion, garlic, celery and kale added some ham bone broth and bean water and  made a delightful, tasty soup. 

 But the rest of the beans I dehydrated. 

It seems to help to have more food in the pot. On my first try, the food and water came to only about half or less of the pot capacity.  2/3 capacity seems to work better for thermal cooking.    



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