12 April 2013: The perfect lunch on a grey & rainy April afternoon, this simple pot of beans is elevated by plenty of aromatics, crumbled dried sage, and good-quality local bacon. Always a pleasure to have some in the fridge!
Why, yes, the Great Dried Bean Experiment 2009 is still ongoing, thank you very much! This week’s beans are Jacob’s Cattle, a lovely, variegated bean, originally cultivated by the Passamaquoddy Indians in Maine, and the old standard for classic New England baked beans.
Having purchased the so far excellent Heirloom Beans cookbook, by Rancho Gordo’s Steve Sando, I decided to try Jacob’s Cattle Beans with Pancetta and Sage from the book. Local pancetta being quite difficult to find, however, I used thick-cut local bacon instead. Since it’s still winter, fresh local sage is also hard to come by: luckily I dried some CSA sage over the summer and still have a stash.
So far, I’m batting 1000 with this cookbook: these beans were delicious; hearty, smoky, thick and flavorful, and so filling that this pot will last me several meals. I can hardly wait to have them for breakfast over scrambled eggs!
Adapted from Jacob’s Cattle Beans with Pancetta and Sage, from Heirloom Beans, by Steve Sando and Vanessa Barrington.
- ½ lb dried Jacob’s Cattle beans, soaked
- 3 pieces (about 5 oz) thick-cut bacon
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 2 celery stalks, chopped
- 1 medium carrot, chopped
- 4-5 small cloves garlic, minced
- 2 heaping tsp dried, crumbled sage, divided
- 1 tsp sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- a splash of wine or vinegar, for deglazing
- olive oil, for garnish (optional)
- Transfer beans and their soaking liquid to a medium saucepan. Add water to cover by at least 1 inch, if necessary, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer gently, covered, until beans just begin to soften, about 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium heat, cook bacon until crisp. Remove bacon to a clean plate. Pour off all but 1 tbsp of bacon grease (pour through a fine sieve and reserve for future recipes). Deglaze pan with a splash of wine or vinegar and scrape up all of the browned bits. Add onions, celery, carrot, and garlic to the skillet. Crumble in 1 teaspoon of dried sage and sprinkle with salt. Sauté over low heat, very slowly, until vegetables are very soft and slightly caramelized, about 20 minutes.
- Add vegetables and salt to the beans. Simmer, partially covered, until beans are tender and cooking liquid has thickened, about 1 hour 15 minutes. During the final 5 minutes of cooking, add the remaining 1 tsp of sage and freshly ground black pepper: taste and adjust seasonings. Serve hot, drizzled with olive oil and topped with crumbled bacon.
Serves 4 – 6.
- The original recipe specified pancetta and fresh sage. Sauté pancetta with the vegetables and use olive oil or bacon grease for added fat as necessary. If using fresh sage, use a total of 2 tablespoons.
- Cranberry beans or Good Mother Stallard beans are recommend as substitutions for Jacob’s Cattle.
Up to 5 days refrigerated. Like most bean recipes, this will only improve after a day or two in the refrigerator.
The ingredients are available year-round but as this is a hearty, smoky and meaty dish, it is best in winter.