What is a Jersey Bean Crock? A Jersey Bean Crock or ‘les pais au fou’ is perhaps Jersey’s national dish. It is a tradition casserole of dried beans rather like a French Cassoulet. And don’t worry Guernsey readers I know that the Guernsey Bean Jar ( moussaettes au four ) is just as culturally important. The Bean Crock or Jar is cooked in a large clay casserole dish and historically was left in a baker’s oven overnight. The contents were often eaten by cold and weary fishermen for breakfast. English visitors to the islands are said to believe that Jersey inhabitants only ate Bean Crock. Hence the moniker Jersey Bean for islanders.
What is in a Bean Crock?
So far so good, everyone in Jersey and Guernsey is agreed. A Bean Crock is a jolly good thing served with some crusty bread and freshly churned butter. However, we need to call in international arbitration when we try to establish the ingredients. Is the rich jellied stock made by using a pig’s trotter or beef shin? Adding parsley is rather superfluous and a throwing in few carrots could start a small war. The original recipes are all very simple. Perhaps we should allow for different times and lifestyles when cupboards were not filled with herbs and spices.
What are the key ingredients in every Bean Crock? Beans, I use dried haricot and butter beans which are soaked overnight before cooking. In times past, every house would have beans hanging to dry from the rafters or in outhouses . These would then be shelled over winter for cooking. The meat, beef, or pork should be on the bone to help enrich the stock. Onions and maybe a bay leaf are added for flavour. Finally, plenty of salt and pepper.
WHAT TO DRINK?
Although not as rich as its French cousin the cassoulet Bean Crock is a hearty dish and needs a similar style drink. Try Duvel, an award-winning Belgium golden pale ale with lots of hop flavours, fruity, full of berry flavours Côtes du Rhône Villages or a classic Rioja Crianzas are all great matches.
My Jersey Bean Crock
I’m not the first chef to tinker with a Bean Crock or Jar. Andrew Baird the talented Executive Chef at the fabulous Longueville Manor hotel in Jersey has served his version of the dish for several years. And I’m afraid I like the flavour carrot and parsley, and a few other ingredients bring to the dish. If you live in Jersey, you can get mixed dried beans from Fungi Delecti or the pet shop near the market. However, most health shops and large supermarkets will stock lots of different dried beans. So while the dish I have created is a little bit more refined than the traditional recipe it is very definitely a great tasting pork and bean casserole.
My Jersey Bean Crock
- Jersey Bean Crock or Casserole Dish
For the Bean Crock
- 500 gr Pork Belly skin off
- 1 small Pig’s Trotter
- 250 gr dried Butter Beans
- 250 gr dried Haricot Beans
- 1 large White Onion peeled and very finely diced
- 2 large Carrots peeled and cut into small chunks
- 2 Sticks of Celery washed and very finely diced
- 2 ltrs good quality Chicken Stock
- 2 cloves Garlic peeled and crushed
- 20 gr Flat leaf parsley washed, dried and finely chopped
- 2 Bay leaves
- 1 small bunch Thyme
- 2 tlbs Beef dripping
- 50 gr Jersey Butter
- Jersey Sea Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper
- Freshly baked crusty Bread
- Jersey Butter
- A little extra freshly chopped Parsley
- Soak the dried beans, overnight, in the fridge. Change the water at least twice.
- Preheat oven to 275 F / 140 °C / Gas Mark 1.
- Gently heat the dripping in your crock or casserole dish. If you don’t have a crock or casserole use a large heavy-bottomed pan. Add the onion, celery and carrot, celery.
- Cook over a gentle heat, stirring regularly, but do not colour. When the vegetables are soft remove with a slotted spoon and put to one side.
- Turn up the heat, add a little more dripping if required, and add the belly pork. Colour on all sides before adding the pig’s trotter together with the garlic, bay leaves and thyme.
- Add the chicken stock and gently bring to the boil. Put on the lid and place in the oven for two and a half hours.
- Carefully remove from the oven and allow to cool. Remove the belly pork and put to one side. Remove the trotter and strain the stock.
- Drain the beans and place in the crock or casserole dish and add the vegetables and stock and add enough water to cover the beans by about two centimetres. Season generously.
- Bring back to the boil, replace the lid and put back in the oven.
- Cook the beans in the crock for about an hour and a half or until tender.
- Whilst the beans are cooing remove as much meat as possible from the pig’s trotter. Add to the beans with the parsley and the butter to enrich the sauce.
- Add a little freshly boiled water if the crock looks a little dry and return to the oven for another fifteen minutes.
- Put the pork belly on a tray and return to oven at the same time.
- Spoon the bean mix into large shallow bowls and top with sliced pork belly and freshly chopped parsley. Serve with freshly baked crusty bread and Jersey butter.