(Yes yes, for the purists reading this, Waitrose mixed beans are not the traditional Jersey Bean Mix. I like them though. I miss the big Feuvre brown beans though. I like the Jersey Bean mix too, but these tend not to go quite as mushy. It depends if you like very mushy, or identifiable beans. This is a dish that apart from burning it, which happens easily and frequently to those who use a slow cooker... is almost impossible to overcook).
There is a tradition that wealthy people who could afford meat, would fill their Crock with the meat. Poor people who couldn’t afford meat just put the beans. Then the Baker would actually share out the meat and beans between all the pots. Put them in his oven and say a prayer of provenance over them. A wonderful thought.
I am just going to post this in pictures. All the while savouring the aromas of my beans cooking. This is a dish of preparation. It’s not difficult, and it is a very cheap way to feed a lot of people.
The beans must be soaked beforehand for at least 12 hours, but not more than 18 as they will start to ferment. Changing the water three times also helps. The thing everyone jokes about is they give you wind! They will if they are not soaked. I discard the first lot of water they are boiled in if it’s has thrown a huge amount of scum. The Waitrose beans don’t, and a light skim of any froth is enough. The Bean water does make them more tasty. I also have a secret ingredient I will share with you all on how to get them more tender and digestible... you will have to follow the recipe.
This is a fibre and protein rich dish with lots of Iodine and minerals. If you don’t use meat, just add more onions and a carrot or two, but not more than a stick of celery. (It has a lot of celery salt, and could make them tough). A veg stock cube, lots of bay and pepper.
A word of warning. Never add salt to cooking beans. They become very salty otherwise and inedible. They also harden. Only season with salt at the end when you are ready to think of serving. Also freeze the beans without the salt. They keep well in containers, and easy to vac pack.
It is only cost effective to make it in a big pot for a lot of servings. You can use a slow cooker. BUT... remember you MUST boil the beans for ten minutes before putting them in a slow cooker. They can go in the pressure cooker too, just on the steam setting not under pressure. I don’t find they are as good though. I prefer mine cooked in a clay or earthenware pot. It’s just more traditional. Finding a real Jersey Bean Crock is like getting a hens tooth. The Old Jersey Pottery used to make them and they were expensive back then. Very beautiful though. You leave them in your will now!
There are a lot of reasons people tend to buy cooked beans in tins, Once you know how to cook them they are much cheaper to cook from the packet of dried beans.
If friends know you are cooking this round our parts, you can be sure you will get guests for a Bean Crock Supper! Fresh crunchy bread, especially buttery garlic bread, and if you like it a glass of rough cider completes the experience. If we are having a parish get together in winter, everyone brings Bean Crock and shares. Great for a quiz night.
Taditionally the Jersey Cabbage Loaf would be eaten with this dish. A little more history... the little round loaf was wrapped in a cabbage leaf to protect it from the cinders on the base of the bread oven, and to stop it burning and to keep it moist. The bread ovens were heated to very high temperatures with gorse wood, which burns very hot, and makes good embers. Once the oven was very hot the embers were raked over and the loaves put in. The Baker did not bake bread from the Saturday lunchtime and put the bean crocks in while the oven was cooling overnight to the Sunday Lunchtime. People came to get their Bean Crock, which is named after the beautiful pots. Each one different so everyone knew their pot. Then the Baker would clean out the oven ready for use the next week.
In times past Jersey used to mill flour. We have a lot of little streams and our mills were overshot in sequence down each little valley. Ships would bring grain here to be milled before taking on for sale to England. The Channel Islands have strong connections with the Gaspe in Canada. The Cod triangle was an important trading route. This is why we have a lot of old but still current laws about streams, and not blocking the flow of water. Old Jersey Law is written in medieval French. Our Advocates have to study at Caen university to qualify to read the old laws. Also many deeds are written in the old French even until quite recently. We have very strong links to Normandy through our old Laws. Also the Church used to belong to Coutances diocese.
Local people built Cod boats and sailed them to the Gaspe for Cod fishing. Salted the Cod and took it south to the Caribbean to the French and Spanish and Europeans on that coastline. Then spices and Mahogany were brought back to Jersey, where fine furniture was made, and the spices traded. We are a seafaring people. The Jersey Holm Oak was an important part of Shipbuilding. A shorter dense wood tree used for the building of strong boats for fishing the Canadian waters. You still see many Holm Oaks growing in Jersey. Also there is Holm Oak day. That’s to do with Charles the Second’s Coronation day. We wear a sprig of Holm Oak Apple as a royalist that day. You make ink out of the Holm Oak Apples, or galls, for Iron gall ink. All wonderful traditions and History around food. We have a very strong heritage of rope making and grew Hemp for ropes in times past. The ropewalks are still there in St Aubins.
Its a beautiful sunny cold winters day. At lunchtime the Mercury has just hit 5 degrees Celsius. There was a light frost overnight. Just the day to take a walk in St Peters Valley with the very handsome Husband and the lovely elderly dog. So peaceful, yes a little traffic in the background. Daffodils just coming into flower. In a week there will be drifts of thousands of them in golden swathes around the pathways and scattered in the slopes under the trees. The Victoria Pub in the valley a good place for a pub lunch if you were inclined to stop for a pint and a bite of pie.
I took photos of our walk which I will post later. The main reason is to show anyone visiting this page the restored De Quetteville Mill with its overshot wheel, and how the sluice gates are positioned to divert the water to get it working. It is a working mill, and The National Trust for Jersey have it open in the Summer months and going. Milling flour which you can buy.
I can’t help but think of people in war zones when I walk these quiet pathways. I am thinking how I would love to cook this dish with something like a goat, or beef. I am sure it would work. I would obviously have to find a cooking pot I haven’t cooked pork in. We don’t have a problem with eating pork. It is the original staple of Jersey.
To invite people who need a moment of peace to walk with me beside these not so quiet waters babbling and trilling by the pathway, and to invite them to my home and feed them. Then just let them fall asleep on my sofa in front of my little log fire. I am very blessed. I want to share and send this blessing of a peaceful moment in life to any person who needs rest right now.
Well a long intro, let’s get on with the photos. If I can find a leafy cabbage, I may make a cabbage loaf for my Husband to go with the Beans tonight... I didn’t get to find a cabbage, but I did find a hungry friend! We had company for Bean Crock.. it’s a given. If you make it people turn up!