Butter Bean, Italian Sausage and Cider Stew with Chili and Rosemary – and Craig Beckley’s Italian Sausage Review

Bean and Sausage Stew

I’m the sort of person who would go (and have gone!) far for a really good meat product.  It just so happens that last week, I didn’t need to go very far – Craig, the proprietor of the very excellent Craig Beckley’s SA Boerewors, delivered the sausages we ordered the the city centre of Jyväskylä all the way from Helsinki.

Craig makes his sausages himself from locally-sourced meat and good-quality spices, without any unnecessary fillers or convenience ingredients such as preservatives*.  The result is a fresh sausage that must be consumed within days of manufacture similarly to any fresh meat product (as opposed to sausages cured for longer storage time), or frozen on delivery to preserve freshness, but with a really remarkable flavor and texture.  I do not praise sausages lightly – I have eaten sausages in England, from good butcher shops, from a nice little salumeria in the Italian neighborhood of Saint Louis, MO, from small shops all over Tuscan countryside, and from Taylor&Jones in Stockholm.  Craig’s sausages are as good or better than any I have actually had – and certainly among the best.

The particular strength of these is the great balance of seasoning to meat.  Too often with flavored sausages, you get one of the two extremes – either the flavorings and spices totally overwhelm the flavor of the meat, and all you can taste is the (usually singular) spice, or else the flavor is only meat, with a tiny barely-detectable hint of something that you sort of wish you could taste, but is just barely-there.  Not so with Craig’s sausages – these are both, meaty and heavily but perfectly seasoned, enough that they can help flavor a stew or a sauce, but do stand well on their own.  The taste of fresh meat comes through, as do the spices, and the result is really very remarkable.  These are most certainly recommended, so if you are in Finland, by all means look Craig up via the facebook group (his website is under construction) or contact him at Xcraig.beckley8@gmail.comX (remove the X at start and finish obviously, or don’t if you are a spambot!).

Now, the stew in the above photo, which turned out awesome, is actually a very simple and fairly easy recipe, since the sausages provide most of the awesome flavor here.  The result is deliciously satisfying, with a fresh acid note from the cider, aromatic herbs, and creamy beans, wonderful on a cold evening.  You can still obviously make this if you have access to other good Italian sausages if you can’t get Craig’s, so here is the recipe – I hope you like it!

What you need (makes about 3 large or 4 average portions):

  • 4x large Italian sausages (about 400g), cut into 2-3 cm chunks (use scissors or a sharp knife)
  • 250g dried beans (I used butter beans), soaked overnight and then cooked in your preferred way.  My preferred way to cook the beans is this – I rinse the beans after soaking, put them into a large ceramic pot with a lot of cold water, a bay leaf, a teaspoon of dried savory (optional) and a teaspoon of salt, cover it, and stick the whole thing into 160C oven for 1.5-2.5 hours, checking on the beans every 15 minutes after the first 1.5 hours (different size and varieties of beans take different times to cook).  I find this method reduces pain in the head and also makes less beans split.
  • 2 onions, peeled and sliced
  • 2-3 carrots, peeled and grated on largest grater holes
  • 1/2 glass of dry apple cider or white wine and 2 tsp of apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp of chili flakes (more or less depending on your preference)
  • 1-1.5 tsp dried savory, or if you don’t have savory, thyme is a very good substitute.  Obviously if you have either one fresh, use about a tbsp of fresh leaves, chopped.
  • 2-3 sprigs of fresh rosemary, leaves torn off and chopped finely
  • 2-10 cloves of garlic, finely sliced.  Adjust amount of garlic depending solely on your love of garlic.
  • Salt and freshly ground black or white pepper to taste
  • Ghee or butter or frying oil of your choice

Bean and Sausage Stew

What you do:

  • Heat a couple of tablespoons of ghee (or any other oil) a large pan on medium/medium-high heat.
  • Add onions and a pinch of salt and saute the onions until all translucent and edges are turning golden.
  • Push to the side and add carrots.  Saute until turning paler gold, and mix into the onions.  Push to the side.
  • Add chili flakes and savory or thyme and the chopped rosemary on top of the onion mix.  Add sausage pieces and saute until browned on all sides.
  • Make a small space on the side of pan and add a little bit of oil if needed.  Add sliced garlic and saute a few seconds to a minute until fragrant but not yet changing color.

Bean stew

  • Add your cider or wine with cider vinegar and mix everything together.
  • Lower the heat to medium, cover with a lid and cook gently for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until sausage is cooked through and the vegetables are softened.
  • Drain your beans from their cooking water and add to the pan.  Mix to coat the beans in sauce, taste and season if necessary.  Cover and cook another 5-10 minutes on medium-low heat.

Bean stew

  • Stir again, plate and serve with some fresh green salad on the side.  Grind over a little bit of black or white pepper to taste.

This goes very well with a glass of dry cider or a white wine of your choice, if you are so inclined – or with water or whatever floats your dinner, if you aren’t.  A little bit of hard cheese such as parmesan or romano wouldn’t be at all wrong grated on top, either, but it isn’t actually necessary.

* I am not against preservatives such as curing salts and the like in cured meat products that do require those.

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