Hillbilly Cassoulet

A bowl of bean stew

The fuzziness is from steam

Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference store brand does have a couple of kinds of gluten-free sausages (Sicilian and Toulouse), so I picked some up again on a twofer deal. I didn’t feel like just frying them up to have with some potatoes or something, so decided to make a variation on cassoulet with the Toulouse sausages in the slow cooker.

With the British winter weather setting in, I was also craving a big pot of pinto beans. I can’t help it, though Mr. Sweden probably wishes I could. 🙂 So, I decided to combine the two. It worked better than I expected.

The Beans

  • 2/3 of a pound (500g) bag of pinto beans — you can use more or less
  • Water to cover the beans — filtered, in this case, since we have liquid chalk coming out of the faucet
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda, if your water is hard — too much will make them taste soapy

Sort and soak the beans overnight, in plenty of water. Unless the weather’s really hot, they’re usually OK to soak for anywhere between 8 and 16 hours. You can also quick-soak them by bringing them to a boil, then covering them and letting them sit for about an hour in the hot water. Long soaking to start the sprouting process (preferably invisibly) makes them a lot easier to digest, though–a good thing with the musical fruit! An excellent article I ran across: Reducing Phytic Acid in Grains and Legumes.

Drain and rinse the beans. Cover them with fresh water, and bring to a rolling boil. You can continue to cook them on the stove, or move them into a slow cooker.

The Slow Cooker

My slow cooker

With its baleful glowing eye... And, erm, toothpick for a steam vent to make it stop spitting all over the place.


Technically, you could start the beans off on high, straight in the crock, but it will take forever to get up to a boil. (If you’re wanting to cook them on low, definitely boil them for ten minutes in a pot first, to break down the phytohemaglutinin.) If you aren’t going to be leaving it alone to cook all day, you’ll probably want to preheat it before the beans go in. I turned the heating sleeve on high, and let it sit while I was making my coffee today. The crock sat full of hot tap water, a couple of changes, until it was well-heated and unlikely to crack when I set it down in a hot liner! The crock will take ages to heat up on its own, and I was impatient.

Put the beans in the crock. Add more water, if necessary, to make sure they’re well covered. Add the salt and baking soda, if you need it. (Yeah, it will reduce levels of some vitamins, but I figure it’s more important to get the beans cooked properly!) The beans will probably be done in a couple of hours on high, if things were preheated; put on low in the morning, they’ll be ready when you get home at the end of the day. If you’re going to add other stuff, like for this recipe, you don’t want to let them cook to the point that they start falling apart.

Plain cooked pinto beans in the slow cooker

Looking good, if plain!

The additions

Ingredients to put in the beans: sausages, bacon, onion, celery, carrot, garlic

  • 1 lb. (400-500g) sausages — Toulouse, in this case
  • Some bacon (I used the second half of a 200g pack of already-chopped dry cured)
  • A chopped onion
  • Two chopped stalks of celery
  • A couple of chopped carrots — we had leftover cooked ones, so I cut those up and added them later
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced

Brown the sausages in a pan. You don’t have to make sure they’re cooked through (good thing, since those were half-frozen still), just browned on all sides. Let them sit and cool while you fry the bacon in the same pan–with the fairly chunkily chopped onion, celery, and carrot, until the non-carrot veggies are translucent. I also used a little olive oil, since that bacon didn’t have enough fat. Add the sliced garlic, and cook a few more minutes, until it’s also starting to go translucent.

A cast-iron skillet with the bacon and vegetables cooking

Mmm, browning.

Once the sausages are cool enough to touch, cut them into bite-sized pieces. These, I quartered.

Stir the bacon and veggie mixture and seasonings into the simmering beans.

Seasonings:

  • Bay leaf
  • Coarsely ground pepper
  • A little crushed red pepper
  • Sprig of fresh rosemary, or some dried
  • Dried thyme and rosemary (add later)
  • A splash of red wine (add later)
  • Salt, to taste, if needed
Added bacon and vegetables, the celery leaves chopped up, and a sprig of fresh rosemary

With the bacon and veggies, chopped leaves from the celery, a bay leaf, and a sprig of rosemary

Add the sausage pieces.

Added the sausage

Let it simmer for about an hour after adding these. About 20 minutes before it’s done, add the dried herbs (thyme, marjoram, rosemary if you’re using dried), and the wine. I also threw in the cooked carrots at this point.

The finished stew, in the slow cooker

Not very photogenic, brownish stews...

Serve with bread, and enjoy! With this, we had the corny gluten-free angel bread.

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