beans, bacon, whisky, lard – and New Year’s resolutions

bean hotpot

“We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day.”

So said twentieth century poet and pacifist Edith Lovejoy Pierce. Pierce was born in Oxford, England but married an American and moved to the US in 1929. She drew her writing inspiration from history, religious mysticism, the Bible, and the words of Mahatma Gandhi.

The New Year is a chance to wipe the slate clean, to begin again, to reinvent oneself. It always has been. From the Babylonians, to the Ancient Romans, to the Pagans and the Medieval Knights – essentially for as far back as we can trace – there have always been ceremonies to welcome in the New Year and all have been connected with making good, atoning wrongs, and improving one’s self. The Medieval Knights for example, celebrated the New Year feasting on game and bread washed down with ale and mead while reaffirming their commitment to chivalry.

And as much as we scoff about such rituals and mock the likelihood of the success of our intentions and resolutions, the fact of the matter remains that there are few amongst us who deep down do not welcome the chance to improve ourselves and move on to the proverbial next chapter – whatever that chapter may be.

Just like the knights – we bring in the New Year with food and alcohol while embarking on New Year’s resolutions that are more often than not, linked to health, fitness, sobriety, and food.

Food is a way of telling our stories. We cannot think about the important dates in our lives without remembering the food involved.  Almost all our major cultural and religious celebrations including Christmas, Diwali, Hanukkah, and Ramadan are linked in some way to food. Weddings, funerals, and childhood birthday parties – all are marked with food and remembered by the food we ate. We cannot think of cavemen without thinking of hunting and gathering. We cannot think of Australia without the “barbie,” Japan without sushi, Germany without sausage, Italy without pasta, Britain without fish and chips, India without curry, or France without croissants.

So it is hardly surprising then, that when we have the chance to reinvent ourselves, we so often start with food. If you’re making resolutions about healthier eating, you might want to consider some achievable no-fail resolutions – such as eating more simply, eating less fast food and more slow food, or eating vegetarian more often. This recipe for a bean hot-pot will help you accomplish all three of those goals at once.  It’s an easy, inexpensive, rustic and perfect winter dish that you can make in the slow-cooker while you go off to work or go skating or cross-country skiing. The original version of the recipe calls for bacon but is easily adaptable as a vegetarian dish – in which case you will no longer be able to claim like the cook in the movie Atlantis, “I got your four basic food groups! Beans, bacon, whisky and lard!”

Serve the hot-pot alongside a loaf of good bread. If you’re apprehensive about opening so many cans – you can start with dried beans. The standard procedure for replicating one 19 oz (540 ml) can of beans is one cup of beans soaked overnight, rinsed, covered with fresh water and simmered for 45 minutes to one hour.

Wintergreen Bean Hot-pot (adapted from A Taste of Wintergreen)

2-3 tbsp olive oil (or a half pound of bacon, fried and diced, reserve the fat for frying the onions)
2 large onions, finely diced
2-3 cloves garlic, finely diced
2 19 oz (540 ml) cans mixed beans / bean medley, drained and rinsed
2 14 oz (398 ml) cans baked beans
1 can green beans, drained and rinsed
1 can yellow beans, drained and rinsed
3 tbsp brown sugar
3 tbsp molasses
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tsp dry mustard

If you are using bacon – cook the bacon, remove, and reserve the bacon fat.

Cook the onions in either the olive oil or bacon fat until soft and lightly browned. Add the garlic and continue cooking for another minute or two.

Add the brown sugar, molasses, cider vinegar and dry mustard. Stir and continue cooking for about five minutes or until the onions are slightly caramelized.

Remove from heat, add the beans (and chopped bacon) and transfer to a crock pot. Cook for about 4 or 5 hours (or more but you will need to check it is not drying out) on low heat. Alternately – cook in a large casserole dish for about one hour at 350 degrees F.


24 thoughts on “beans, bacon, whisky, lard – and New Year’s resolutions

  1. I am always mesmerized by your writing, observations and thoughts which are quite deep. You have summed up what it is to start a new year beautifully. Love the recipe for beans, it really is a medley of different types. When you say green and yellow beans you actually mean string beans and wax beans? Thank you as always for a great post that I truly enjoyed and a very Happy New Year.

    1. Thank you Suzanne – for such a beautiful compliment – much appreciated and so generous of you.
      And yes, green and yellow beans (as we call them) are string and wax beans.
      Happiest of New Years to you too!!

  2. Love this. I’m up for wiping the slate clean… and reinventing myself. I’m always up for that. I’m also up for wiping that dish clean… the beans look absolutely delicious…a loaf of crusty bread like you said… Life is certainly good. ❤ Thanks for such an uplifting post.

    1. Aww – thanks for such an uplifting comment! Don’t you just love a do-over – a new beginning – and all that?! I do. I don’t know if it was the ice storm or what but I feel like I’ve been re-booted of late. Life IS good – you’re right! xo

  3. This is kind of weather that makes one appreciate a wonderfully warm medley of beans. I’m wondering if using frozen green and yellow beans would work as well.

    As an aside, your gingerbread recipe turned out beautifully, even with my questionable decorating skills. Thank you.

    1. Oh my goodness – I am SO thrilled the gingerbread turned out. I love that recipe!
      I imagine frozen beans would be an excellent idea – I don’t know why I did not think of this myself. I didn’t have green beans for the one I made recently – so I just used yellow (wax) beans. They were tinned. But from here on in – I’ll likely use frozen.
      Stay warm – it’s much nicer today in Kingston but apparently the deep-freeze is returning soon. And happiest of New Years to you!

  4. Firstly, I’ve yet to have a decent croissant in France! They’re always better in the UK, for whatever reason. Besides, French coffee ain’t that great either. Anyway, Happy New Year! And I went spicy for CDAy itself. Still haven’t managed the bread for the stuffing. Nor a nut roast. Ah, will get there.
    Liking the base of your hotpot (and that it’s adapted from yourself). Will have to look out for several of those ingredients. Particularly the apple cider vinegar, which I don’t think is available here. Hmm, intrigued.

    1. Johnny – Happy New Year to you!!!!
      Your comment made me smile as always. I’m pretty easily pleased so I can’t recall a croissant I didn’t like – anywhere! But now you’ve made me want a good English one. I’m visiting England in a couple of months – but heading to Mexico first for some sunshine, margeritas and beautiful Mexican food. Olé! 😉

    1. Yes Maria – bacon isn’t really optional is it? I mean, honestly!
      SO hard to give up all the rich food after Christmas. I think I need a couple of weeks in a bacon-free, cream-free, chocolate-free, pastry-free health spa with a personal trainer. But that won’t happen! Going to walk my dog and eat an apple and that’s as close as I’ll get.
      Happy New Year!

  5. Seeing as my NY’s resolution is to try making each of the dishes you post – I am excited to start with this amazing hot-pot. And what a perfect dish to come home to after the weather we have been having lately.
    Thank you so much for all the tasty food over the holidays – and I hope to see samosas and saucy chocolate cake soon! LOVE YOU!!!
    xoxoxoxo Laura

  6. First of all, your photo is so vibrant and seriously appetizing. Another beautifully written narrative from Lindy! I love your insight and your way with words. Very inspiring. Also inspiring is this lovely wintergreen hot pot! I love all the ingredients and would never think to put it all together. And like Maria…I will be including the bacon too. 🙂 Happiest New Year to you and happy travels too! Mexico! England! sigh.

    1. Seana – how delightful of you – thank you so very much. I always, always LOVE seeing you here.
      I’m with you and Maria and I put the bacon in my bean hotpot – and I skipped the grean beans because I did not have them. I’m not very good at ever making anything the same way twice.
      Although I just wrote this on your blog – Happy New Year. I hope you have a year of great joy. xo

  7. This looks delicious and very healthy. What a beautiful post. I like the idea that we are like Knights, connected to history and observing traditions as old as time. I like the suggestion of keeping resolutions simple. I really like your philosophy. Here’s to a year of good cooking!

    1. Amanda – thank you! I love the idea that if we make resolutions that are sensible (recommitting to chivalry for instance!) we can work towards a better and more meaningful existence.
      Happy happy New Year and may all your resolutions come true!

  8. This is my first time to your blog, and must say that I truly enjoyed this post. I appreciate you reflecting on the importance of food. And in light of the New Year, I think it is especially important to focus on long lasting ways to make changes that don’t demonize good things, but instead remind us how to enjoy things in moderation. Thank you again for the post and this recipe!

  9. What a great introduction to a wonderful recipe Lindy. You have touched the range of emotions that I’ve had in the past one year. I can connect so much with this meaningful dish. Love the use of molasses as well. Warmest, Danny

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