A soup that’s worthy of the name stew; meatless and delicious, Traditional Newfoundland Stewed Beans transforms rustic, homey ingredients into a hearty and wholesome meal!
I’m probably going to receive a few text messages from relatives that still live in Newfoundland for calling this dish a Traditional Newfoundland Stewed Beans recipe. Why? Two words: salt beef!
In traditional Newfoundland cooking, which involves a lot of root vegetables and dried beans, salt beef is usually at the heart of it. What is salt beef? Well, it’s hard to explain, because I don’t like it. (That just got me more text messages!) But, I’ll try my best to explain…
Salt beef, sometimes referred to as salted beef, or salt cured beef, is literally famous in Newfoundland and most of the Maritimes. It is basically cuts of raw beef that has been packed and stored in a strong, salty brine.
Traditionally, this type of meat was stored in a cool dry place, such as a bottom cupboard or a root cellar in a bucket, barrel, or some other type of non-metal vessel, where it would keep for months. The brine is made by boiling water then adding non-iodized salt until no more salt can be dissolved, then the brine is set aside to cool.
Salt beef is extremely salty. Remember, it would take a lot of salt added to water until the salt will not dissolve any more! To eat this meat, you must soak some of the salt out. Seems silly doesn’t it! But, the excess salt was necessary to keep the beef from spoiling.
First, you soak the beef in water, usually over night. Then the water is changed for fresh water and some people will soak the beef again, but if memory serves me correctly, mom and dad would cook with it after the first soak. You see, the saltiness left in the meat would salt the water used to cook traditional meals, Stewed Beans being one of them.
I did not use salt beef in my Traditional Newfoundland Stewed Beans recipe, because two of the people who would be eating this delicious meal with me are vegetarians. Trust me, Dear Reader, especially my fellow Newfoundlanders, you do not need meat to make flavour.
And, you do not need meat to make a traditional meal for you and your family. When I first tasted Traditional Newfoundland Stewed Beans without salt beef added, the first thing I thought to myself was, “Oh, I wish mom were still alive to taste this!” Mom was very anti-vegetarian; she just did not grasp the idea at all.
But, I just know she would have thought that my meatless version of Traditional Newfoundland Stewed Beans was absolutely delicious. The only thing she would ask for is a few slices of buttered bread, because in Newfoundland, soups and stews come with buttered bread or rolls. As it should!
When I was younger, and my mom or dad prepared traditional Newfoundland meals with salt beef, I always removed it. It’s not the flavour of the salt beef that I dislike, it’s the texture. The meat if very pink and very fibrous. I know beef naturally is, but not like the salt beef I saw floating in my stew!
I will still do that. From time to time, when we visit my dad, he will have made soup or some other dish that has salt beef. I love the recipes and he’s a great cook, but I still have to pick out the pieces of beef and put them aside. I’ve tried it so many times, but the texture just does not agree with me.
So, if you’re willing to change tradition a bit, then I encourage you to try this dish without salt beef. And, if Stewed Beans are not your thing, then maybe you can try my Split Pea Soup – also vegetarian!
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Traditional Newfoundland Stewed Beans
- 900 grams dried navy beans, or white beans
- 1 cup onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 6 large carrots, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
- 6 stalks celery, finely chopped or sliced
- 3 whole bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 4 cups vegetable stock
- 4 cups water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup parsley, finely chopped (optional)
- Toss the dried beans in a large bowl and cover with tap water. Fill the bowl so that the water covers the beans by 2-4 inches. Use a wooden spoon to aggressively stir the beans, being sure to move the beans about the bowl. Set the bowl aside and allow to sit undisturbed for 30 minutes.
- After 30 minutes, skim the top surface of the water with a spoon. You're removing any debris that may have floated to the surface. (Dried beans tend to need a good wash before consuming!)
- Once you have cleared anything away, pour the beans into a colander and rinse the bowl out with fresh water. Add the beans back to the bowl and refill with clean, fresh tap water once again until the water reaches 2-4 inches above the beans.
- Cover the bowl loosely and allow the beans to soak in the water for 10-12 hours.
- Drain the water from the beans and set them aside.
- In a large soup pot, add the olive oil, onion, garlic, carrots, and celery. Over medium heat, stir to combine and cook for 5-10 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Add the bay leaves, rosemary, thyme, paprika, salt, pepper, vegetable stock, and water. Stir to combine.
- Add the beans and stir into the other ingredients.
- Place a tight-fitting lid on the pot and cook for 90 minutes, or until the beans are tender.
- Remove the lid. Stir in the chopped parsley and let the stew sit, uncovered, for 5 minutes.
- Plate and serve with crusty bread and butter!
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