Last week I tried to make my favorite yellow split pea dal in my crockpot. It was an utter FAIL. Really and truly nasty—by the time the peas were finally edible (sort of), they had turned a disgusting brownish green color, which is why I’m skipping the photo. However, dear readers, I want to spare you the same miserable experience.
My problem, it turns out, is that I added turnip greens at the beginning, right along with the split peas, the potatoes, etc. Although we don’t think of them as such, it turns out that turnip greens are quite high in acid. The acid, in turn, makes it difficult for the split peas to absorb water. How difficult? Well. Let me tell you. These split peas—pre-soaked, mind you!—were still hard as rocks after 8 hours in the crockpot, at which point I turned it to low and we went out for pizza at our local brew pub instead. I let it cook overnight. The peas were still mostly hard the next morning, but by now the mixture had started to turn an alarming color. Determined not to waste food, I decided to pressure cook the whole thing. Five minutes at 15 pounds pressure did virtually nothing to the peas. After another 10 minutes, they were starting to soften, but still not done. Finally, after another 10 minutes at 15 pounds of pressure, they were finally soft enough to eat. They were also not very pretty.
The end product was edible, sort of, if you smother a bowl of the stuff with yogurt and chutney. But it is not something I will repeat.
The lesson? Only add acidic things (tomatoes, greens, lemon juice, etc.) to legumes after they’re cooked. This is the logic that explains, among other things, why recipes for baked beans usually either have you start with cooked beans or include a cooking time of several hours. Great mysteries revealed!
Now, to be honest, I’ve often had trouble getting beans soft in the crockpot, which is one of oh-so-many reasons I usually prefer the pressure cooker instead. How does this work, exactly? What tricks do you use?