I tried out the mesquite bean recipes I sent out in a previous blog. I have a confession to make: some of the results don’t match the advertised claims.
The mighty mesquite bean itself can be broken into and the seeds extracted. The raw seeds are too hard to be an enjoyable snack but they taste pretty good. They have a sorghum molasses taste. I’m thinking about toasting them to see if they’d get crispy. Mary Ann and Gerald were at the house when I was experimenting. Mary Ann flat refused to chew one despite Gerald, Bob and me all showing her that we had eaten one and hadn’t been poisoned. I think all those tricks we played on her when she was 7 have ruined her for experimentation.
We collected beans from Bob’s yard. We had planned to monkey up a mesquite tree to collect the beans before they dropped. I don’t know if it’s the dry weather but there was a mass bean exodus off the trees. The yard was carpeted with beans so they were collected on the ground. Not sure what the bug count would have been if we’d just gotten them off the trees; the bugs were either microscopic or the weather was too hot for mesquite bean eating insects. We soaked the beans, anyway, to effect bug evacuation. After a few hours’ soak, we rinsed enough beans to fill my crockpot, covered them with water, and cooked them overnight.
The directions for making mesquite syrup read “Place water and pods in a covered crock pot and cook at low heat for 12 hours. Strain, then reduce by boiling to the consistency of thin syrup. Cool and serve the thick, bold syrup on pancakes.”
I followed the directions, but I did not get the thick, bold syrup as advertised. I got a molasses-ey tasting syrup which was not thick when it was hot. It didn’t get any thicker after a few 24’s in the fridge. I saved it to use as sweetener or to keep boiling to see what the residual might taste like.
Following the directions for the mesquite jelly, I made mesquite juice, combined it with sugar, lemon juice, and fruit pectin. That recipe is a keeper flavor-wise. The jelly has a honey taste and it looks pretty.
The problem was me. When the directions say to cook to 220 degrees (jelly stage on a candy thermometer), it means 220. It does not mean 215 looks close enough let’s stop and do something else. That 215-ish temp doesn’t make jelly. (It might not have been 215; maybe it was closer to 210.)
The flavor of the syrup (which could pass for thick enough to use on pancakes) was good enough that I dumped what the defecto jelly batch, washed and re-sterilized the jars, and had a re-do. This time I got jelly like Smuckers. Very exciting.
We also used mesquite beans in the BBQ pit to flavor some king mackerel Bob was grilling. They didn’t impart that much flavor to the smoke. In a pinch, maybe. But mesquite wood is what gives the real flavor.
The mesquite bean experiment has been interesting enough to make me want to harvest some more and try making flour with toasted mesquite beans. I love the idea that you can make something from nothing. Ok. That’s with a lot of work but it’s still interesting. At least I can use a blender or food processor and not a molcajete!