Although I would make this recipe again in a heartbeat (the flavors are wonderful), I just COULD NOT get the beans fully tender. They simmered... my Le Creueset dutch oven for upwards of 4 hours (slow, steady bubble) and just would not cook all the way through. Most of the time was partially covered, some of the time was fully covered when I got desperate. These were newly purchased beans from a national brand so I'm fairly confident that they weren't old. I'm wondering if there is some science behind a slow boil simmer of the beans causing them to not get tender all the way as I found out yesterday. I say this because I've made many similar recipes in my slow cooker and after 6-8 hours, they are always creamy tender. In the case of the slow cooker, they never simmer-boil. Any thoughts yeah or nay on this theory??

Chicago Mike
Recipe question for: Borrachos


lilmagill January 18, 2015
Try it again, cooking your beans w/ water only until they're tender. Overnight soaking, whether you bring them to a boil or not, will do the trick. Acids and particularly salt will prevent beans from softening, but if they're just being stubborn, a teaspoon of backing soda might help. One more note -- rinse your beans of their soaking/cooking liquid. Beans have a soluble enzyme and that's what causes gas. Best of luck!
Penny H. January 18, 2015
Your problem may be water. Never, never add cold water to hot beans. When cooking beans I parboil (helps with gas) then drain and put the beans into hot water. If more water is needed, I boil some in the microwave before adding to the pot. Hope this helps.
Greenstuff January 7, 2012
This subject comes up repeatedly on the hotline. I'd never had it myself (including cooking with those delightful Rancho Gordo Pepples) until just this week with some very large and beautiful lima-type beans called "chestnut." I simmered and simmered and simmered. Then added just a pinch of baking soda, and poof!! They were ready in no time.

Voted the Best Reply!

Sam1148 January 7, 2012
One warning about the baking soda addition...just a pinch is all thats needed. It can usually be the beans or hard water or a combination of both. The baking soda softens the water. Using distilled water works also...however by the time you realize you have a problem bean, it's too late, and baking soda to the rescue.
If you add too much baking soda you run the risk making the flavors go completely flat---it's a pinch as you say. I use this trick all the time with difficult beans.
giuliettanicoletta January 7, 2012
My beans are also refusing to soften after many hours of partially covered, very gentle simmering. They are Rancho Gordo "Pebbles," btw. Thanks to all for the above discussion. I feel much the wiser now! And echoing Chicago Mike, this is in no way a criticism of the recipe -- just sharing. Cheers!
Chicago M. May 23, 2011
Thank you, everyone.

lastnightsdinner - absolutely no need to be sorry - this was in no way a disappointment - just something I've dealt with in the past and am aware is a regularly occurence in the art of cooking! As I said, I would make this dish again in a heartbeat. what I love about it is the cooking of the aromatics prior to adding them into the beans. Many bean recipes I've made in the past have you throw raw onions and garlic and salt pork and chili powder into the mix without any flavor melding or development, and your version goes way beyond that. Thumbs way up!

everyone else- I think the acid may be the cause! I read a few things from the likes of Alton Brown about adding a small bit of baking soda to help beans soften to combat the acidity, In addition, I used salt pork instead of uncured slab bacon, so I had a healthy dose of salt already prior to adding any more into the simmer.

Thanks again to all in this wonderful community!
SKK May 23, 2011
I love this recipe and had the same problem as you the first time I made at. How I compensated was I did not add the tomatoes, beer, chilis and brine until after the beans were tender. My reasoning was the salt in these ingredients were the source of beans not tenderizing. Have made this dish many times and been successful. It really is worth trying again!
prettyPeas May 23, 2011
If you're having trouble I'd suggest not adding the tomatoes until beans have softened as acids can prevent beans from softening. This recipe sounds delicious and I'll have to try it with my excess of pinto beans.
nogaga May 23, 2011
Beans can be mysterious that way. I think they just need time to soften up and expand. Most likely the overnight soak lastnightsdinner recommends would do the trick. Good luck!
lastnightsdinner May 23, 2011
Ugh, I'm so sorry this didn't work out for you. I'm not sure what advice to give re: the beans remaining tough - I've made these with everything from Goya to Whole Foods 365 brand pinto or red beans, to heirloom beans from Rancho Gordo and Freedom Bean Farm, and I haven't had a problem. I'm wondering if a more traditional overnight soak rather than a quick soak like I use might help? At any rate, thanks so much for trying my recipe, and I'm so sorry it was a disappointment.
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