This method for soaking beans in a brine has been floating around the Internet for years. It flies in the face of accepted wisdom that one does not salt beans until near the end of their cooking time. The brining is supposed to slightly soften the beans and make the beans less apt to break apart and burst during cooking. It also shortens the cooking time, when compared to cooking unsoaked beans. I tried this method and must say I liked it very much–in fact, this is how I always prepare beans. As with the traditional soaking method, one can do a long soak, up to 24 hours (or even longer, if you like a bit of fermentation to occur in the beans) or a quick soak, in which you pour boiling, salted water over the beans and let them brine for an hour. One caveat to this method–make sure you thoroughly rinse the beans after brining and let drain some before cooking, otherwise you will have very salty beans.
Long Soak Method:
4 quarts (warm) water
2 – 3 T table salt or 3 – 6 T kosher salt
1 lb beans
1. Combine water and salt, stirring to dissolve–it’s easier to dissolve salt in warm water, so gently heat water and stir in salt. Let cool before proceeding.
1. Sort beans, discarding cracked beans and pieces. Rinse. Put into a container. Pour (cooled) water over beans. Let brine for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours, or longer. Drain and rinse very well before cooking.
Short Soak Method:
2 quarts water
3 T salt
1 lb beans
1. Bring water to the boil. As it approaches the boil, add salt and stir to dissolve salt.
2. Sort through beans and rinse. Take pot of boiling water off heat. When the water is no longer turbulent, gently stir in the beans. Let soak for one hour. Drain beans beans and rinse well before cooking.
For every pound of soaked beans, add 4 quarts water. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat to a gentle simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, anywhere from 40 to 60 minutes, depending on the age of the beans and your own personal preference. Feel free to add whatever aromatics and other additions you normally use when cooking beans.