The Cures: Soaking, Long Cooking

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

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A commonly used method for reducing the gassiness of beans is to boil them briefly in excess water, let them stand for an hour, then discard the soaking water and start the cooking with fresh water. This does leach out most of the water-soluble oligosaccha-rides—but it also leaches out significant quantities of water-soluble vitamins, minerals, simple sugars, and seed-coat pigments: that is, nutrients, flavor, color, and antioxidants. That’s a high price to pay. An alternative is simple prolonged cooking, which helps by eventually breaking down much of the oligosaccharides and cell-wall cements into digestible single sugars. Oligosaccharides are also consumed by the bean during germination, and consumed by microbes during fermentation: so sprouts, miso, and soy sauce, as well as extracts like bean curd, are less offensive than whole beans.