What is a Legume?
A legume is a seed contained within a shed or a pod. Well-known legumes include alfalfa, clover, peas, chickpeas, lentils, lupin bean, mesquite, carob, soybeans, peanuts and tamarind. The legumes are of the Leguminosae family. When both the seed and the pod is consumed – as with green beans and snow peas – the legume is considered to be a vegetable. Under the legume umbrella we have beans, lentils, peas, and peanuts. Home canning legumes and beans is an excellent source of plant protein and other nutrients such as iron and zinc.
Is there a Difference Between Legumes and Beans?
Dried beans and peas are the mature forms of legumes such as kidney beans, pinto beans, black-eyed peas, and lentils. Now the difference between split peas and lentils is simple. While both are legumes, split peas and lentils come from different varieties of legumes. Split peas are a type of field pea, which is a pea grown specifically for drying, while lentils are their own type of legume, harvested as the seed of the plant and then dried.
Legumes have some wonderful health benefits and are not only for those that don’t eat meat. Legumes are high in dietary fiber and have a low glycemic index. Basically, that means you’ll feel fuller longer because it takes longer for your body to break them down, and it also makes them a great food to help manage diabetes. They’re also a great source of protein for those that don’t eat meat, and super cheap! Even on a low budget you’ll be able to get super creative with so many legume options and recipes ta ‘boot.
The History of Legumes
It is fascinating to discover the many different uses for legumes throughout the world. In China, a common addition to dishes is what are called “fermented black beans” and they act almost like parmesan cheese would in most other areas. Made of dried and salted soy beans, they can be used as a topping, to make “meat” balls, to bring out the flavors in a dish, or in stir fry. As for flavor and aroma, they are rumored to be harsh even to a fermented food lover, but no one ever said trying new things was always easy!
A little closer to home for many of us is a characteristic recipe in the southern United States that we all know and love called, baked beans. In fact, it might be difficult to find a picnic without this staple! Another versatile favorite of mine is my Mixed Bean Medley. Nothing says Taco Tuesday like this flavorful refried bean recipe that looks great as a base for your taco or inside a wet burrito. It also makes a great soup.
Home Canning Legumes and Beans
Purchasing dried beans and legumes offers a huge cost-savings compared to store-bought canned beans, however, when we are short for time and dinner needs to get on the table, the thought of rehydrating dried beans is a bit of a pain. Having home-canned beans on your pantry shelf is such a blessing when crunched for time. Better yet, when comparing the cost of commercially canned beans, you are at a cost savings given the volume of beans per jar, the fact the jar and ring are reusable, and the low cost for lids and ingredients.
What Do I Do if I Have Hard Water?
Dried beans soften best in soft water, meaning the water is free from minerals like calcium and magnesium. Soft water is typically treated water where the only ion is salt. For those of us with well water, we struggle to soften our beans, even when soaking overnight. If you have hard water and do not have an in-home water softener, use distilled water or create soft water using the following ratio:
3 tablespoons of salt to every 1 gallon (16 cups) water for every 1 pound (16 ounces) of beans
Here is a recipe that my Grandma Steele used to make. Trust me, after you create and preserve these homestyle baked beans in a jar, you’ll never buy store-bought again!
Homestyle Baked Beans
Makes 5 pints
Prep Time: 45 min / Cook Time: 25 min / Canner Time: 60 min / Processing Time: 75 min / Total Time: 205 min
Need a quick side for a pot-luck or sporting events? Pop a few jars of these in your crockpot and heat through on warm. Homestyle baked beans are a total crowd pleaser and the perfect side dish. After canning these once, I never purchased store-bought baked beans again.
2½ cups dried navy or great northern beans (16 ounces)
12 to 14 ounces smoked, uncured bacon, thick cut
1 large sweet onion, diced (1½ cups )
6 garlic cloves, minced
1½ cups Chicken Stock
¾ cup packed dark brown sugar
¾ cup tomato paste (6 ounces)
½ cup blackstrap molasses
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
¼ cup ketchup
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
- Thoroughly rinse and clean the dried beans, discarding disfigured beans and debris.
- In a large pot, combine the dried beans with enough water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil for 5 minutes, then reduce heat to low and simmer with lid on for 30 minutes. Turn off heat and keep lid on.
- Using kitchen scissors cut bacon into 1-inch-long pieces and place in a deep skillet. Using medium-high heat, cook bacon until lightly browned but not crisp, about 8 minutes. Remove bacon pieces using a slotted spoon and set aside in bowl. Be sure to reserve as much bacon grease in skillet as possible.
- Add the onion and garlic to skillet and cook until the onion is translucent, about 5 to 8 minutes.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the chicken stock, dark brown sugar, tomato paste, molasses, vinegar, ketchup, Worcestershire, Dijon mustard, salt, cayenne pepper, and black pepper to make a smooth sauce with no lumps.
- Drain the beans in a colander in the sink, shaking off any excess liquid. Add the beans to the onions and garlic in the skillet. Add the crumbled bacon and mix well. Heat through on medium-high heat, stirring often, for about 5 minutes.
- Add the sauce to skillet, mixing well to coat every bean, and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Boil for 2 minutes, stirring, then remove from heat.
- Using a slotted spoon, fill the pint jars with hot beans leaving a generous 1 inch of headspace. Using your air bubble remover tool, tamp down to remove air pockets, and evenly distribute any remaining sauce among the five pint jars, maintaining the 1 inch headspace. Wipe the rim of each jar with a warm washcloth dipped in distilled white vinegar. Place a lid and ring on each jar and hand tighten.
- Place the sealed jars in the pressure canner, lock the pressure canner lid, and bring to a boil on high heat. Let the canner vent for 10 minutes. Close the vent and heat to achieve 10 pounds pressure. Process pint jars for 75 minutes.
Recipe Tip: While it is tempting to double, even triple, this recipe, the best flavor is achieved when it is created in a single batch . I suggest prepping the beans for multiple batches simultaneously to maximize your time, therefore increasing your yield. A single batch requires 2 ½ cups dried beans that yields 5½ cups hydrated beans. Use this math to hydrate multiple batches of beans together to save stovetop space. Then, you can create individual batches of sauce and individual skillets of the bacon, onion, and garlic mixture.
For more canning recipes using legumes and beans, be sure to pick up your copy of The Complete Guide to Pressure Canning on Amazon or Barnes & Noble today. Have a canning question? Do not hesitate to message me on Facebook.
Happy Canning Everyone~
Diane, The Canning Diva®