A Hill of Beans

There’s no point in explaining my absence; nothing has been as it should for the last 23 months and we all know that. However, I did finally decide to try and get back to keeping this page relevant and posting about the things that have kept me busy during this long stretch seemed fitting.

This page is focused on baking and gardening because that is what I do; I bake and I garden and sometimes, I bake with what I have grown in the garden. Lately though, many days have been spent canning things from the garden; pickles, jams, tomatoes in all forms, vinegar and vegetables. We actually produce enough food in the garden to feed ourselves through the year. There is a real feeling of satisfaction when I peek into the cupboard in search of ingredients and I pull out a jar that is filled with something that I grew and canned myself.

When my husband gave me a pressure canner one Christmas, I was excited; I could finally do more than just tomatoes or pickles! The cupboard is now stuffed full of single serving jars of soup that I made to keep me fed this winter. It may seem like work but when you do the math, it is almost always a lot cheaper than buying cans of soup and it certainly doesn’t contain the preservatives and crap that most cans of soup are full of.

The biggest bargain I have found is to buy bags of dried beans and then can them. A one pound bag of beans will yield four pints of cooked beans once they are canned and you figure it out, a jar ends up costing about 35 cents. By canning them you also have jars of beans that are ready to be added to a dish without having to soak and cook them; a real win-win in my kitchen.

Hummus is a staple in our house and I was not really fond of making it from store bought chick peas. No matter what I did, even using the Vitamix, just did not make it as creamy as I would like. Then I began canning my own chick peas; what a difference in consistency!

Navy and Great Northern beans are interchangeable in recipes if you ask me. Just look at the photo, Navy on the left, Great Northern on the right. The only real difference is size. Either one works in a bowl of soup or as a side dish or straight out of the jar with a spoon… Yes, I’ve done that when I am too lazy to cook although I will heat them up most of the time.

Recently, I made a batch of Cuban Black Bean Soup and having jars of cooked beans ready to go meant that I didn’t have to cook them first. That batch of soup was finished quickly and into jars it went. Now I have a supply of black bean soup and black beans in the cupboard.

The last batch of beans was a half bag of Blackeyed Peas. We had a major infestation of pantry moths over the summer and had to toss out so much dry food that leaving an open bag of beans in the cupboard was a bit of a risk. Besides, if I am really going to eat a bowl of beans for dinner, these will be my first choice. Saute some onions and garlic, drain the beans and add them to the pan with some broth and just let it simmer; bacon or ham can be added too but i generally skip that. Dinner in less than ten minutes.

Since this page really is about gardening, I feel I must take it full circle. Did you know that you can easily grow your own dried beans? Granted it takes some space and patience but most pole beans will produce pods faster than you can find them on the vines. Every year I plant a variety of green beans called Cherokee Trail of Tears. The vines can grow 15 long and they produce tons of green pods. When young, they are some of the tastiest green beans and we always process a bunch, vacuum seal and freeze them for use over the winter but we have also found that it is just as easy to let some of them go to seed. If you let the pods mature and dry on the vine, you will be able to harvest them and then shuck the beans. This particular variety produces black beans and we have done this a few times. The beans are small but tasty and we have enjoyed them in soup and chili. If you grow your own, do be certain the mature beans are edible, some such as Hyacinth beans can be poisonous.

Now get out there and plant some beans!

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