Surprisingly to me, they were a big hit. There were no leftovers. One of my neighbors asked me for the recipe. I couldn't tell her what I had done - I had been in such a frenzy that I didn't remember even hours past the making of them how I had done it.
I considered myself lucky, but made sure from then on to always leave time to soak my beans whenever I planned to make them. But that required vigilance, and did not always work out, in which case I would make something else and plan to cook the beans another day.
I am happy to say that has now changed. I ran across this post a few months ago that shows how to cook beans in the oven, without having to soak them beforehand. I was skeptical, but beans are inexpensive enough and it was a small enough effort that it seemed worthwhile to test it out.
It worked. Beautifully. The beans were perfectly cooked and tender, but still firm, as opposed to my pre-soaked beans, which often turn out more mushy than I would like. Contrary to everything I had heard about not adding salt too early in the cooking process, adding it at the beginning gave them an added depth of flavor that simply cannot be achieved by adding salt at the end of the process. I did cut the amount of salt in half, which was the perfect amount for me.
I was eager to share this method, but I wanted to be sure that it wasn't a fluke so I have tested it several times, with several kinds of beans. I am happy to say that it works with every bean I've tried so far. It even works with chickpeas. You just have to cook them for a longer period of time.
This method is not only easier, but to me it is also a better way to cook beans. As I mentioned earlier, they are not as mushy as the pre-soaked version, and the skins are more firm. It's a complete win-win. Easier and firmer, with much better flavor.
I always cook a pound of beans, even thought it is more than I need for one dish. They freeze beautifully, so I always use half right away and then freeze the other half so I only have to cook them half as often as I plan to use them.
I have made some changes to the original method based on my experiences (of course). Here is how I do it:
NO SOAK BEANSmakes 6 cups of cooked beans
Preheat the oven to 300 deg. F.
Sort, rinse and drain a pound of dried beans. Place them in a heavy oven-proof pot with a tight-fitting lid. Add 1/2 a tablespoon of salt and cover about 1-1/2 inches over the top with water.* Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
As soon as the beans are boiling, cover them and put them in the oven on the center rack. Let them cook for about 1 to 1-1/2 hours. Start checking after the first half hour, adding more water if necessary. Check again in another half hour, then in smaller increments as they get closer to being done.
A pound of dried beans makes approximately 6 cups of cooked, which is usually enough to make two separate dishes. YMMV.
*I usually cook the beans plain. When I am ready to use them I will cook them with onions, garlic, and/or bacon and whatever other herbs and spices I plan to use. If you want to cook the beans with aromatics and spices, you could add them in the beginning and cook them that way. Hmmm, they would probably taste much better that way, and you could still cook them up with more onions, garlic, etc., for even more flavor. I think I will do it that way next time.