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Curing Your Own Lupini Beans...Not an Activity For The Time-Deprived or Faint of Heart

In an effort to make my life more complicated, I recently decided to brine my own lupini beans. For the uninitiated, lupini beans are a little yellow bean that comes in a thick casing which you usually discard after you pop the edible part of the bean into your mouth. If your family is from Italian or any other kind of Mediterranean descent, you probably already know what these are. If not, I highly recommend you try them. They're packed with protein, tasty, and very fun to eat. They are not, however, easy to prepare.
The only time I've ever eaten lupini beans (before this year) is at my grandparents' homes during Christmas. Both sets of grandparents are Italian, by the way. Why only during Christmas? I'm not sure. Perhaps because they are considered a delicacy, but maybe just because the only times we think to eat them are on special occasions. However, on a recent trip to Pittsburgh I stopped by Pennsylvania Macaroni Co. in the Strip and nearly freaked out when I saw a barrel of dried lupini beans. I'd only ever eaten lupini out of the jar, after they'd been already brined, so this was an interesting idea: I could actually brine my own lupini beans. Little did I know what I was in for.

I read a few how-to articles on-line but, never one to be troubled by learning from the experience of others, I went ahead with my own method. I started by soaking the beans in fresh water to re-hydrate them and get them up to normal size. Then I tried one, raw, just for the hell of it. I instantly regretted that decision, as my mouth was coated with a toxic-tasting, bitter substance that stayed with me the rest of the day. I later read on-line that lupini can be poisonous if eaten raw, and it's no surprise. These things are bitter. In fact, bitter is not the word. Do not try to eat them raw for any reason, including if you're trying to stave-off total starvation. Just starve to death.

After that I soaked them in salt water for a week, changing the water every day, and adding new salt...and they were still disgustingly bitter. At this point, I decided to boil them--a step which, up until this point had not occurred to me for some reason. I boiled them for 45 minutes, which seemed to help a lot, but the bitter taste lingered at the very end. So I soaked them in brine for another day, then boiled them again, for another 45 minutes. Then I packed them in saltwater in jars and changed-out the (decreasingly foul-smelling) water out every day until they had become the tasty snack I grew up with.

I have to say...what the hell, it was worth it just for the experience. When you total up the water, the salt, the time, and the cost of the dried beans, I don't think I saved any money buying them dried. But I learned a few things...I learned that lupini beans are the toughest, most bitter, most resilient beans on earth. I put these little guys through hell, and they held up and came out tasting like they are supposed to. Yes, I think we can all learn a thing or two from my beloved lupini bean.

How to Cure Your Own Lupini Beans:

1.) Soak the dried beans in fresh water until the reach normal size

2.) Boil them for up to 2 but no less than 1.5 hours

3.) Soak them in salt water for a week, changing the water every day or two days, or every time the water starts to smell. This helps leech out the bitter alkaloids and is absolutely necessary part of the process, or they will not be edible.

4.) When they are ready, they will have a nice, marine kind of taste -- salty, but not bitter -- and will have a nice consistency almost like a hard cheese. If they have a lingering bitter taste they are NOT done and should be soaked or boiled as needed to get rid of the bitterness.

5.) To store them for later use, put them in jars (like the picture) with plenty of salt, and they should keep for weeks or months.


Melissa said…
I just bought lupini beans, for the very first time in my life. I was in a supermarket and saw this unfamiliar thing and immediately decided I wanted to try them. That was a stupid idea - or maybe a brilliant one, I'm not sure yet. The thing is, I'm still wondering what to do with them, because they are tinned lupini beans, so I'm not sure if I'm supposed to boil them or not. I tasted them after washing them, and your description is very apt: they're possibly the foulest thing I've tasted in my whole life (I'm 30, French, and not afraid of eating weird things). I was seriously considering throwing them away, but your post gave me strenght. I'm going to try and soak them in brine until I succeed in making them edible (or die trying!). So thanks for motivating me :)
Anonymous said…
I have been curing lupini beans for some time and I heard that some people boil them to speed the process. It takes me about three or four weeks of water and salt baths for them to cure. I see that you did boil them to speed up the process. I shall try that this time. But I can be patient, because we love them. Addie
neocrazy said…
I buy a pound of lupini beans, pick out the imperfect ones then put them in a large pot of water. I give it about two hours of soak time befre I change the water then put on a low flame until the water boils. Cool the water and rinse again. From there you need to change the water two or three times a day - the more often you change the water the quicker the toxins will come out of the bean. Add a small amount of salt per water change to keep the skins tough. When cured put them in plastic or glass containers and change the water often - remember to add a small pinch of salt to preserve the skins.

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