Use It or Lose It! Bean & Sausage Chili

It’s not like this site really needs another heirloom bean recipe; and I think I’ve fairly covered the spectrum of pork sausage possibilities. But this recipe isn’t really about beans, or sausage, or even chili for that matter: it’s about how “putting up” isn’t just about jam. And about how put-ups aren’t always meant to stand alone: while some, it’s true, are glorious on the oft-recommended cheese tray, I could eat a cheese tray for dinner every night of the year without using up all the jars in the garage pantry. Sometimes, we need to get just a tiny bit creative and Think Outside the Cheese Tray.

Almost everything in this particular chili recipe is a put-up of one kind or another: cured sausage is a way to preserve pork (or other meat) for long-term storage, one that dates back to times before refrigeration; leaving beans to dry on the vine is one way to extend the harvest long beyond the time when the last plant succumbs to frost. The carrots & onions have been root cellared at the farm that grew them over the winter; the jalapeños were frozen and stored by me last summer. Roasting garlic and storing in oil is a good way to extend the life of cold-storage garlic that starts to dry out and sprout as Spring approaches; even meat stock can be seen as a way of putting up, of extending the life and usefulness of a chicken carcass or ham bone, and tucking it away to fuel some future meal.

As Tigress said recently: if you preserve one thing, make it tomatoes. Tomatoes fueled this dish in several ways: fire-roasted & canned, home-dried, pasted and even sauced. Tomatoes are the Mack Daddy of preserving projects, but they are endlessly versatile: from curries and chili, lasagna and pasta, soup, pizza and more. But in addition to the tomatoes, this chili featured a jar of marinated peppers, for flavor and acidity, home-dried oregano for an herby dimension, and home-dried chiles for extra kick. All in all, only the celery was not locally grown or produced, and only the celery, carrots and onions were bought and paid for in recent weeks. Everything else was just sitting on the shelf, in the larder or the freezer, waiting to become.

So this summer, as you lay out your plan of attack for preserving the season, or as you idly peruse the farmer’s market, thinking maye this is the year you finally learn to can, do me a favor: think outside the jam jar. Because, as much as I might like to: woman cannot live on the cheese tray alone.

———————————————————–

Empty jar dance!

Bean & Sausage Chili

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 tbsp bacon grease or olive oil
  • 8 oz cured hard sausage, such as chorizo or andouille, thinly sliced on the diagonal
  • 3 celery stalks, sliced
  • 2 large carrots, peeled & sliced
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 1 large (2 medium) jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped (frozen or fresh)
  • 2 tbsp roasted garlic or garlic confit
  • 1/2 pound dried beans (I used Calyspo), cooked, in their broth (about 3 – 4 cups cooked beans)
  • 1 cup stock (I used homemade pork stock) or water (juice, beer, wine, etc.)
  • 1 pint (16 oz or 2 cups) canned tomatoes (I used fire-roasted)
  • 1 half-pint (8 oz or 1 cup) marinated bell peppers
  • a generous handful (1 and 1/2 oz) dried tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • about 5 dried red chiles, stemmed, coarsely chopped, with seeds
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp salt, or to taste (use less, or eliminate, if you are using store-bought stock)

METHODS

  1. In a medium (5-quart) Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed stockpot, heat the bacon grease or oil until shimmering, but not smoking. Add the sausage and, stirring occasionally, sauté until slightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the celery, carrots, onions, jalapeño pepper and garlic; stir, reduce heat and sauté until vegetables are slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Add beans + broth, stock, tomatoes, marinated peppers, dried tomatoes, tomato paste, chiles, oregano and salt. Mix well, cover, and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and cook at a gentle simmer, partially covered, until flavors are nicely blended and chili sauce is a thick consistency, 1 hour or more.
  2. Taste and adjust flavorings. Serve hot with cornbread, corn or flour tortillas, or you know: bread that needs using up.

Serves 8 – 12.

OPTIONS

  1. Nearly endless. Peruse the pantry and see what needs using up: barbecue sauce, salsa, tomato sauce, garden pickles, corn relish, even a bit of apple butter; lots of things can work in a slow-coooked chili.
  2. I included in the chili about 1/4 cup of tomato sauce that had been lingering in the fridge for a few weeks: certainly not necessary in terms of flavor or texture, but I got to use up the jar!

STORE

Like all chilis, this dish thickens and improves with age. Will last up to 5 days refrigerated.

SEASON

Winter into early Spring.

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6 comments

  1. I do this all the time and we love it! It is quite the staple dinner around here from fall through early spring. We use the left overs on baked potatoes for lunches the next day and I’ve even canned some for a lazy, rainy day. It’s definitely my go-to meal when life runs away with me.

    Here’s hoping that the tomato season rocks this year!

  2. You are so right about tomatoes. I mostly dry them for the winter and I never dry enough: I probably should run my dehydrator ’round the clock right through the summer: last year I ran out by March; this year I ran out in February.

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