Along the Grapevine

Beans with Sumac (Two Versions)



Many people keep sumac powder in their pantries to add some lemony tang and colour, particularly to Middle Eastern dishes. I see it being used in an increasing number of recipes, and am happy that this versatile and tasty spice is catching on. What many people don’t realize is that our local staghorn sumac in Ontario, as well as neighbouring provinces and norther states, is the same product. It is plentiful, easy to identify and gather, has a long shelf life, and is easy to turn into powder or liquid. For information on its nutritional value, I recommend looking at this article.

It has been a tough year for gathering sumac in this area – just too much rain. The rains tend to wash away the tasty bits, so I only collect sumac after a long dry spell. The good thing about winter here is there is little or no rain, and the sumac is still good for picking, so I set off last week to restock my pantry. A full five minutes of picking off a few clusters of berries was sufficient to fill a sack to be dried or soaked.


I have figured out a few things about preserving sumac.

First, when drying, it is simpler to dry the whole cluster. It doesn’t take any longer, and the berries are easier to remove when dry. Just pop them all in a single layer in a low oven or dehydrator and leave them until they feel completely dry, about five hours. Each cluster is made up of several small cones, so if you just pull them apart, you can easily rub the berries off right down to the centre stalk.


The dried berries need only be ground (I use a coffee grinder) and then sifted.


The second thing I learned is if you want a liquid infusion, just covering them with tepid water and letting them soak for anywhere from 10 minutes to a couple of hours. Strain off the liquid through a cloth. I then repeated this process with more water and the second batch was as dark and tasty as the first. I prefer this method to simmering them, which although gives a deeper infusion, will destroy the vitamin C. If cooking with the infusion anyway, this is not a problem, but when I use the product raw, it is best to preserve its full nutritional value.


Now that I have a good stock of sumac, I will be posting more recipes using this super local super food. Meanwhile, I did make a recipe for baked beans I have been meaning to get to for some time now. A ridiculously easy and satisfying dish for the winter months, it needed a bit of a makeover to move with the times. The addition of sumac gives it a mildly fruity flavour and richer colour than the original recipe. It is as easy to make a big batch as a small batch, and any extra can be frozen for later use without losing any of its original flavour or texture.


I divided the recipe in half – to make one vegan and the other with meat. For the meat version, I used pork crackling left over from my lard rendering, but bacon, pork or sausage, raw or cooked, would work just as well.

Beans with Sumac


3 cups cooked navy beans

1 cup onion, chopped

1 (or more) clove garlic, chopped

1/2 cup pork crackling (for a meat version)

1/2 tsp dried mustard powder

2 tsp chili powder

2 Tbsp sumac

1 tsp salt

1 cup pureed tomatoes

2 Tbsp dark molasses

1 cup sumac juice or water


Mix all the ingredients in a saucepan or slow cooker. Bring to a boil and then simmer gently, covered, for 3-4 hours. Add more liquid if they become too dry.


I am bringing this hearty winter dish to Angie’s 51st Fiesta Friday. You are cordially invited to drop in and join the party, with or without a contribution of your own. You are sure to meet some talented bloggers and find some original and tantalizing recipes. Hope to see you there!


Author: Hilda

I am a backyard forager who likes to share recipes using the wild edibles of our area.

35 thoughts on “Beans with Sumac (Two Versions)

  1. Love this Hilda! I have a pot of lovely sumac that I need to find some good uses for and this is a fabulous recipe! I think we may have it as breakfast on Sunday with some scrambled eggs and bread. Thanks for sharing!


  2. Just discovered sumac because Ottolenghi had them in so many recipes. Had no idea it could be harvested from our local trees! Thank you for educating me yet again Hilda!


    • Thanks, Johanne. Ottolenghi does have some super recipes with sumac. If it’s good enough for him, it’s good enough for me! I just marvel that it does not occupy the same place in our provincial cuisine as maple syrup. It is even more abundant, and far easier to process. My own favourite recipe is the one with grilled portobello mushroom with balsamic vinegar. I think Mr O would approve.


  3. So this seems to be a refined and slighty exotic “baked beans” recipe I think. I am so curious as to what the 2 tsp of sumac does to the flavor, I can only imagine. My husband is very very partial to baked beans and likes them with a heavy tomato hand, as well as of course the molasses and brown sugar. He has a sweet tooth, but I don’t think the sumac would destroy the sweetness, right, just give more of a depth and a different level of tang. We’ll see if I can get some hands on sumac, I’m headed to the spice store today. I didn’t know that sumac was so rich in Vitamin C but that is very important right now given the little bugs going around. Nice work!


    • Thanks Sue. I believe sumac also contains antimicrobial thingies and antioxidants, but as I am no scientist (obviously) I hesitate to go there in my posts. No need to fear the addition of 2 Tbsp of sumac – even with the juice, the flavour was mild. I never rely solely on my own taste buds to avoid bias or imaginings, but my husband said he could taste the difference, and he liked it. He is also a fan of baked beans, which is why I like to have some stored away – otherwise he will actually go and buy the tinned variety!


  4. I am having a lot of fun with sumac and can’t believe I just discovered it. I haven’t seen it growing wild here, I’ll have to ask the vegetable gardener up at the Mendocino Botanical Gardens if she has considered adding it to her herbal garden. I’m not sure if it will grow out here.

    Interesting post, thank you.


    • It probably does not grow in your area, but you might have another edible variety. People at the botanical gardens might help you. Glad you’ve discovered sumac, and hope some day you’ll be importing it from around here.


  5. I have sumac that grows in my yard. I did not know one could use part of it as a spice! Thank you for this post!


  6. I love your version of bean soup with the sumac. I make a Michigan navy been soup with the ham bone from the holidays. I will be on the lookout for sumac as I bet using sumac water adds some additional flavor than just plain water. Thanks for bringing a comforting soup to FF # 51 🙂


  7. I always learn something new from you, Hilda. I’ve never used Sumac, but now I know that I need to try it soon. The beans sound and look so delicious… I want to take that slice of bread and dip it right into that bowl… Awesome post. ❤


  8. Pingback: Fiesta Friday #51 | The Novice Gardener

  9. Yet another introduction to a wild edible! You are an endlessly fascinating source of information Hilda. I hope someday I will be cool or brave enough to try more of your recipes. At least I can start with some store-bought sumac. Rendering lard may be beyond my skill set at this point LOL ~


  10. I love this! I have huge bags of sumac in my cupboard that my Mum brings from the Middle East, but interestingly, sumac bushes actually grow locally round here in people’s gardens!


  11. Hilda,
    Your posts are so amazing with so much of information on basic ingredients and then developing recipes on that. This one is a super. I bought sumac the other day from the store. I still have to play around with it.
    Please send me the address of your daughter in states. I will send some of my spice samples to her for you. Email me at

    Also, I have been wanting to follow your blog through emails but haven’t been able to find the click button for that. Please guide me on that as well.


    Liked by 1 person

  12. I have sumac and was wondering what I could do with it. Now I have the perfect recipe. Happy FF!


    • Nice to meet you and your blog. I’m glad you like the idea of using sumac. I have already posted many recipes using this spice, so I hope you find something there you like. Happy FF to you too.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. I do love Sumac! I can’t wait to get some more to try this recipe, and I’m really looking forward to seeing more recipes with Sumac too! I absolutely love learning about spices and how to make them last longer and how they can be used! Thank you so much for sharing this… I defintiely learnt alot!


  14. Beans with sumac sounds inspiring and love your different versions…. 🙂


  15. Yum, Hilda! This is truly an exotic recipe for beans! I have only just started using sumac and I really love it. I am looking forward to trying your recipe. I think the flavours must be delightful! 😀


  16. This is amazing. I love that you recognize sumac and forage for it. I grew up with city parents in the country and only now realize how much foraging I missed out on. What an awesome post. I love sumac and for some reason I thought it was only available in the middle east. The only sumac i knew growing up was poison sumac, which was like poison ivy. Not until I discovered the Jerusalem cookbook did i realize what a major difference this spice makes and the fact that it’s probably available in my parents’ backyard. Great photos. Great recipes. xo


  17. I love this! I searched all over for sumac this past summer to make Middle Eastern kebabs- haven’t used it since!! Thanks for the inspiration- this sounds great 🙂


  18. What a beautiful recipe! I just got a batch of sumac for cooking and I love the flavour. This looks great and I love the addition of pork crackling 🙂


  19. Great info and interesting reading Hilda. I’m sure it is much fresher tasting when home ground.


  20. I’ve never had sumac before, but clearly I’m missing out!


  21. The beans with sumac looks yum! I have never tried Sumac!


  22. Beautiful combination of flavors Hilda 🙂 Very innovative.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. I tried sumac for the first time this year. I bought some at Trader Joes. I’ll try your recipe. I’m thinking it would be great on roasted veggies. The cooking adventures continue.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. I am one of these people that have sumac in the cupboard…..but doesn’t really know what to do with it. This is a fabulous recipe to put it to some good use 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Thank you. I have quite a few recipes on my blog for sumac – probably the most practical everyday one is for za’atar, a wonderful spice blend. It is my hope that more people will discover all the uses it has, especially since it grows so prolifically around here.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s