turtle beans, frijoles negros (Spanish)
These small, glossy purplish-black beans are one of the hundreds of varieties of the common bean. They're especially common in Latin American and Caribbean cuisine, and are widely available both dried and canned.
Equivalents: 1 cup dried beans = about 2 cups cooked.
Choose dried beans that look plump and evenly colored. Pick over dried beans before using to remove any small pebbles.
Canned black beans should be thoroughly rinsed before using. Dried black beans should be soaked before cooking, both to speed cooking time and to reduce any gas-causing tendencies. There are two ways to soak dried beans: Overnight soak: Rinse the beans, then cover with an inch of cold water and let soak at room temperature for at least four hours or overnight. Drain and rinse the beans before cooking them. Quick-soak method: Rinse the beans, then put in a saucepan, cover with an inch of water, and bring to a boil. Boil for a few minutes and then let them soak for an hour off the heat, drain, and then add fresh water and continue cooking. Soaked black beans will cook in about 60 minutes. Use 3 cups of water for each cup of uncooked beans, and you may wish to season the beans by adding bay leaves, herb sprigs, or garlic cloves to the cooking water. There's a persistent myth that adding salt to beans while they cook will toughen their skins. This is not true, however, and salting the cooking water gives the beans better flavor.
Canned beans have a shelf life of 2 to 3 years. Store dried beans in a covered container for up to 1 year. You can precook black beans and store them, refrigerated, in their cooking liquid for up to 5 days.