Bean jar is a very traditional Guernsey dish; I have talked about it on the podcast previously. Apparently, islanders used to eat it for breakfast up until the 1920’s. I have read somewhere that it used to be cooked, overnight, in bakers’ ovens after they had baked bread for the day.
Bean jar is a slow-cooked bean casserole. As you can see, it’s not exactly “pretty” food; but it’s cheap, filling and tasty. It makes a lovely rustic lunch or dinner served with crusty bread and a glass of local cider.
Everyone’s bean jar recipe is slightly different. Here’s mine:
- 500g dried beans (I use a half and half mix of haricot beans and butter beans)
- 3 carrots
- 3 onions
- A little sunflower oil
- 1 large ham/pork hock, a pig’s trotter or a shin of beef
- 3 bay leaves and any herbs of your choice
- Enough stock to cover the beans (use a stock of your choice)
You will also need a large oven-proof casserole dish/pan with a lid.
- Soak your beans in water overnight.
- The following day, drain your beans.
- Pre-heat your oven – it should be low, about 150 degrees centigrade or equivalent.
- Peel and dice the onions and carrots.
- Fry the onions and carrots in the large casserole dish/pan to soften them.
- Make a hole in the centre of the onions and carrots in the pan and add your meat.
- Add the beans to cover the meat.
- Add the stock (enough to cover the beans).
- Add your herbs and carefully stir but make sure the meat stays covered.
- Cook for a minimum of 5 hours in the oven; check it occasionally to ensure that it has not dried out and to give it a stir. Add more boiling water as needed. Taste it when you stir it; add salt and pepper to taste. Take it out of the oven when you are happy with the taste and consistency. The bean jar in the photo cooked for 7 hours.
- Remove the bones and bar leaves; serve withh crusty bread.
A lot of people cook bean jar overnight but I’d prefer to get up early and cook it over the course of a Saturday or Sunday. That way, I can keep checking it and enjoy it for dinner! Also, it freezes really well.