Great black beans are cooked from scratch. By cooking from scratch, you get more flavor and more control of taste. But keep a few cans handy for when you can't cook from scratch.
Great beans are slow. They soak all night, and they cook all day. Beans require even longer soaking than whole grains like brown rice or whole wheat, which require a couple hours of soaking, which you can start in the morning or afternoon and be ready for dinner. Beans require soaking for hours, usually over night. And while whole grains can be cooked in under an hour, simmering beans to a soft texture may takes a couple of hours. A good habit is soak over night, start simmering in the morning, and then use both the beans and bean broth for both lunch and dinner meals.
I don't worry about soaking time, or cooking time. I just soak overnight, and start cook in the morning or afternoon, giving me plenty of time. The beans are ready for dinner. (You can find tables of how long to soak and how long to cook different varieties of beans. I find that's too much to remember.)
You can make large amounts, and refrigerate or freeze. Or cook small amounts just in time. I cook small amounts, because I like to adjust the spice and flavor. Dry beans will double in volume. 1/2 cup dry, 1 cups wet, is per person serving.
1 onion; chopped
2 carrots; chopped
4 sticks celery; chopped
2 cloves garlic; crushed and sliced thin
2 leaves bay
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp cumin; ground
1/8 tsp black peppercorn; ground
1/8 tsp sea salt
1 cup dry black beans; soaked overnight, 2 cups wet
Prepare by soaking beans overnight, black beans at least 8 hrs. Retain the soaking liquid. (I prefer to keep the soaking liquid for its nutrition.)
To grind whole spices: Grind cumin seed, black peppercorns, bay leaf and oregano into coarse powder in spice grinder. Set aside. This step can also be done while browning onions, along with chopping base vegetables.
To start base: In large pot, brown onion, lowering heat once it colors, 10-12 min. Add splash of water, carrot, celery, garlic and ground spices, and simmer 2-3 min. Result should be chunky fragrant vegetable mix, without much excess water, which would only slow cooking.
Main: To large pot with vegetable base, add beans and soaking liquid, and cover with 1-2 inches water. Bring to boil, then turn down to simmer, 1-2 hours until beans are soft. Use strainer to drain retaining the liquid bean broth.
Finish: Add fresh cilantro to garnish.