Photo: Brent Ridge
To shell a large amount of dried beans quickly, we simply put all of the dried pods into a burlap bag. We usually wait until December to do this, since we want the pods to be as dry and crackly as possible. Then we whack the entire bag and its contents repeatedly against the frozen ground. Don't hold back -- it's impossible to hurt dried beans. Sometimes we even stomp on the bag to break up the most stubborn pods. Once the beans have separated from the pods, they fall to the bottom of the bag. The pieces of dried pods are like chaff at the top. Do this on a windy day and you can pour the bag's entire contents onto a sheet or towel from shoulder height -- the pod chaff blows away and the heavier beans fall directly onto the towel to be gathered. Any remaining bits of pod will float to the top of a bowl of water when soaking the beans for a recipe.
After the jump, find our simplest, favorite bean soup for cold weather. (Use any variety, or mixed varieties, of beans. We're always amazed at the different tastes, textures, and colors possible from our dried beans.)