There are lots of ways to add additional flavor to beans while they are cooking. You can add onion, garlic, bay leaf, celery. You don’t want to add any acid to the beans during the cooking process. It makes the beans tough.
Add salt to the beans only after they are completely cooked. Supposedly it makes the beans tough. I have heard various experts say that this in just an old wives tale. But why tempt fate?
The broth that comes off of beans is wonderful stuff. The broth that comes off of white beans is really magic. It has a ton of flavor and lots of body. It will give soups and stews and incredible layer of flavor.
Chef Anne Burrell recommends the “five bean” method for determining if a pot of beans is fully cooked. According to Chef Burrell, you should sample five beans from the pot, as some beans may take longer to reach the desired level of tenderness. Taste 5 beans. If all are appropriately tender, the pot of beans is ready.
I have a jar that I keep in my pantry to create my own 9 bean soup. Whenever I open a bag of beans, I pour about a quarter cup of whatever variety I am using into the jar. After a few weeks, I have my own fancy 6-bean, 9-bean or 25-bean soup. I always add a quarter cup of barley to my multi-bean soup as a thickener.