Anything that gets a long cooking time can have extra flavors added during that cooking (yes, beans but also soup, or even poached fruit). Veggie and herb trimmings give a huge flavor boost, but their texture is usually rather unpalatable. Wilted, spent cilantro stems: your slimy residue is not welcome in my refried beans, thank you. Easy solution: throw trimmings or whole spices in a cloth bag and ditch the soggy contents after cooking. There are a number of places to buy cloth cooking bags… but, the DIY version is so cheap, easy, and useful I thought a tutorial might be in order.
I wanted a bag that was simple to construct, yet still durable enough to hold up to repeated machine washing (no raw fabric edges). You really don’t need to be an expert sewer to throw these bags together. I made a bunch in different sizes and wash them with my dishcloths. You could even use the same pattern to make reusable bags for buying produce or whole grains. For an infusing bag you want to select a thin, unbleached and undyed cotton. For storage bags, you can pick something a little sturdier. I give directions for this pattern using a sewing machine, but it’s also a small enough project that you could sew a few by hand. Enjoy!