Friday, May 29, 2009

Traditional Guernsey Bean Jar...with an twist

Once again Foodie Friday is upon us. Thankyou to Designed by Gollum for hosting it. Please visit this site to see all the delicious dishes on offer this week.

Please allow me to introduce the Guernsey Bean Jar. I had never heard of this recipe before we moved here and actually did not try it until we had been here sixteen months. It is a Guernsey institution to say the least so I hope they won't mind too much about my few little tweaks.

These are Haricot beans. I have seen them at our local butcher for months but until I decided to cook this recipe it never dawned on me what they were for. I did think that the butcher selling beans was a little strange, but hey, it's his shop he can sell what he likes.

These are Butter beans. It is very important to soak the beans overnight or longer if possible. The first time I cooked this recipe I soaked them overnight but they did not break down as much in cooking as they should have so this time I soaked them for 24 hours. As a result of the longer soaking they turned out with a true bean jar consistency.

Traditional Guernsey Bean Jar

1 pig’s trotter or shin of beef (I used three shins of beef; the round disc Osso Buco cut of beef)
½ pound Haricot beans (I used 1 ½ cups)
½ pound Butter beans (I used 1 ½ cups)
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots (I used 4 carrots)
1 bay leaf (I used 3 bay leaves)
Salt and pepper, to taste (beans tend to need quite a bit of salt)
2 pints stock or water (I used 1 litre of chicken stock and then added enough water to fully submerge all the ingredients)

Soak the beans overnight and drain. Place the beans in a casserole along with the meat, onions and carrots. Pour over water/stock and cover. Cook in a moderate oven (gas 2-3, 300-325*F, 150-170*C) for 6 hours or until beans are tender. Top up with water/stock as required during cooking. Serve with crusty bread and Guernsey butter (of course).

I cooked this for the first time a few weeks ago and the peanut gallery complained about the lack of beef and flavour so I have made a few adjustments to try and keep everybody happy. I added extra beef and I browned it in butter and olive oil. I removed the meat from the pan and fried the onion and carrots until the onion was translucent. I then added the beans, stock, bay leaves and beef and cooked it on a very low setting on the stove top as I do not have a casserole large enough to hold all those beans. If this becomes a firm favourite I may invest in one but for the time being I will make do with cooking it in a cooking pot. About one hour before serving I take all the meat from the pot, remove the bones and any residual fat; then I shred the meat with two forks before returning it to the pot.

It has a very, very thick consistency and is definitely what you would call a hearty meal. Sorry I forgot to take a more tasty looking photo of the Bean Jar artfully displayed in a large bowl, topped with a sprinkling of parsley and crusty bread smothered in Guernsey Butter on the side. I realise this photo of Bean Jar in the pot is a little uninspired but its all I've got; it was tastier that this photo suggests!

I have tried not to alter the recipe too much as it is a very big tradition in Guernsey. The debate rages about whether the beef shin or the pig’s trotter gives the dish a richer flavour and as for the addition of carrots; well it is safer not to go there! I’m sure my changes would be viewed with much suspicion and horror at my apparent ‘lack of respect’ for a tried and true recipe, but I would like my children to not just sample Guern cooking but to enjoy it so if I need to ‘tweak’ it a little to achieve this so be it.

I bought this little recipe book from the Guernsey Museum and Art Gallery shop so I was hopeful that it would be the most traditional recipe I could get. Each family brings its own special way of cooking to this recipe but they all assure me that their Mum’s is the best. I hope my kids think so too.


  1. We do beans with ham but I'll have to try this -- I love bean dishes -- but, alas, it will have to wait until fall.

  2. Love your blog -- will be adding it to the Friends of Linderhof. I found it through Foodie Friday. I was entranced.

  3. This is very close to our beans and ham, which we love. Real comfort food! I'll have to try this, sometime!

    Enjoyed my visit here, so much!

  4. Your beans sound delicious! I like traditional recipes. Here in the southern United States, we make something similar with a variety of dried beans and what we call country ham. That is a salt-cured ham... very salty flavor. In my family, we always boil a whole ham for Christmas and eat it on southern-style homemade biscuits, saving all the scraps to use in our bean soup. It's a wonderful, filling meal on a cold January day. I think it's kind of neat that all over the word people are enjoying the same foods!

  5. this sounds great for a cold day.., I am not to sure about the shins though! Happy Foodie Friday! Have a great weekend ~ Susan

  6. I am in heaven - absolute heaven. I've bookmarked this recipe for the next streak of cold weather that passes through here.

  7. I have never heard of bean ala Guernsey, but always wanted to visit the English Channel Islands. I hear the weather is mild and it's just lovely!?

  8. Oh yummy and comforting! The peanut gallery does a lot of complaining, don't they? Head on over to my blog and browse a while, if you like what you see, click the "follow" button on the right so we can inspire one another often!

  9. Looks kind of like the ham and beans that I make. I am going to have to try your can never eat enough beans.

  10. Glad to see you are playing along at Foodie Friday which is so much fun. I got a kick out of your beer post yesterday.

  11. Not too sure about the trotters or shins, but otherwise -- a winner for cold weather indeed! Great post, great story!

  12. I absolutely loved this peek into the cuisine on Guernsey! The beans remind me of the white beans and ham here in Tennessee. Thanks for this great post--I will look forward to seeing more!