Beer Beans & Bacon Burgoo

Full Disclosure: “bacon” is technically a pork product made from pig meat. But as much as I like coming up with funny new words like sheese, not-dogs and ricecream, I also get kind of annoyed. Why do dairy and meat products get the market on all the common names? If I say, “Hand me a kleenex”, no one looks at my generic box of tissue and notifies the copyright police. Lay’s makes Bacon Potato Chips,  Planters makes Bacon Peanuts,  and there are even bacon jelly beans (I know..ewww!).

So that’s it. I don’t want to degrade my tasty soup with a dumb, made-up word like ‘facon’. Nope. I’m calling it Beer Beans & Bacon Burgoo. Try it first, and sue me later. I’m serving it with Butter Bread and a glass of milk…both not technically either, so if you are going to report me, bring a notebook and make sure you get all the evidence.

Oh, and Burgoo (pronounced ber’gew) is a word that means a soup or stew that is especially good outdoors. I did take my bowl to the deck for a few bites so that it qualifies, but really, I just like alliterations and wanted to push it a little farther than necessary.

You can make Beer Beans & Bacon Burgoo as simple or as complicated as you want. For a fast approach, done in an hour,  purchase canned beans, or the beans in the jar that have already been cooked, soaked and prepared. Today, I am using a dried bean and vegetable mix that I got in the bulk section of the food coop called ’32-Bean & 8-Vegetable Soup/Chili”, so technically, I’m on the 24-hour plan.

The directions called for a rinse and a 2-3 hour simmer, but I wasn’t falling for that. Dried beans should ALWAYS be soaked overnight, and then cooked a whole day. I don’t care what they say. The bloat that comes from undercooked beans qualifies me for the ‘mothers-to-be’ parking slot at the mall…panel pants and waddle included. I even add a few tablets of Beano as they simmer, which adds a digestive enzyme that breaks down the gas-producing proteins BEFORE they hit my stomach.

I’ve included two sets of directions: dried vs/ canned beans.

Dried beans and a Crock Pot: If you are working with dried beans, cover with water and soak in a large bowl overnight. Rinse in a colander and pick out any debris. Then plan on cooking in a crockpot or stove top according to directions…which should be a minimum of 4-6 hours. 8 is better in my opinion.  And the longer you cook, the more you’ll need to increase your liquid. You can add all the other ingredients to the crockpot in the beginning, or wait until half-way. It just depends on the consistency you prefer your veges… Be sure you are around to check on the mixture every couple of hours to make sure you have enough water. Add more as needed. Add a beer if you are feeling ornery (though you can skip if you are gluten free).

Canned/Jar Beans and Stovetop: First, you CAN use a crockpot here. It simply doesn’t need to cook as long. 2 hours tops…

In whatever pot you choose, add beans and tons of garlic (I did about 10 cloves of garlic to the four cups of dried beans.) Then add your onions and peppers of choice. Bell peppers provide flavor, but no heat, so if you want some kick, consider jalapeno or habanero. Or a tsp or two of cayenne pepper. I also include a few carrots, celery, chopped kale and a large can of diced tomatoes. For seasoning, I add 2 tsp each of chili powder, sea salt, oregano, Bacon Salt and a DARK ALE BEER. Yes, you can. Do it.

There are a lot of vegan and gluten free bacon options out there. I’ll highlight two. The LifeLight Smart Bacon is dense and chewy. It’s like a turkey bacon crossed with a jerky.  I’m not a bacon snob, so I think it’s good, but I wouldn’t attempt to serve it to my meat eating friends and get away with it. I use this product when I need a strip of bacon at breakfast, on a BLT, a bacon veggie burger or any other hot sandwich.
For today’s soup, I used the Fakin’ Bacon Smokey Tempeh, which is a soy bean base mixed with brown rice. It’s much more crumbly, so it’s best chopped up. It will cook into my soup and provide small and chewy chunks of flavor.

In the end, taste isn’t the problem. If they can make bacon flavored ice cream, you can count on vegan bacon to taste like the real thing. The choice is made with texture, and you just have to try different options.

The soup is better after it sits…so don’t be afraid of the leftovers, or even cooking this on your day off and serving another time.

Let me know how your Beer Beans & Bacon Burgoo turns out!