Grandmother’s Bean and (Non-)Bacon Chowder

It’s another Pig-approved post!

When my mother saw my Smoked Seitan Butt post and noticed it included vegetarian bacon bits, she thought I might like to try veganizing the following recipe of my grandmother’s:

Bean and Bacon Chowder

1 lb. pea beans (washed)
16 slices bacon (1 lb.)
2 cups chopped onions
2 (28 oz.) cans tomatoes
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. basil
1 (6 oz.) can tomato paste
4 beef bullion cubes, dissolved in 4 cups boiling water
2 T. sugar

Simmer beans in 4 cups water for 3-4 minutes in Dutch oven. Cool 1 hour. Drain water. Fry bacon until crisp; crumble and add to beans. Save bacon drippings. Saute onions in drippings until golden. Add to beans with tomatoes, salt, pepper, basil, tomato paste, bullion and water, and sugar. Cover and simmer 4-5 hours or until beans are cooked. Makes 4 quarts.

So that’s exactly what I did yesterday! Here’s my version; I’ve also halved her amounts:

Bean and Non-Bacon Chowder

8 oz navy beans
1 small or 1/2 large onion, chopped
1 cup diced UnPork
1 28 oz or two 14.5 oz cans diced tomatoes (fire roasted is good here)
2 tsp vegan “beef” bouillon
1/4 cup vegan bacon bits
1 Tbsp sugar or 9 drops stevia
1/2 tsp basil
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 cups water

Soak the beans overnight. (Or you can quick-soak them as described by my grandmother above.) Dice the UnPork.

In a Dutch oven (preferably cast iron), heat some olive oil. Add the onions and UnPork …

… and cook until onions are beginning to caramelize and UnPork is crispy, deglazing the pan with white wine (or broth or water) as necessary.

Add the tomatoes and tomato paste and bring to a simmer, then add the bouillon and stir to combine.

Add the rest of the ingredients, …

… cover, and simmer for 4 to 5 hours or until beans are done.

If I had realized that this was going to take 4 to 5 hours even after soaking the beans for what turned out to be 24 hours, I would have made it in the pressure cooker, which I suspect would have taken 45 minutes. I was thinking it would take 2 hours. We probably could have eaten it after 2 hours, but I wanted the beans to be softer, so I kept staving off hunger with a slice of beer bread and waiting another hour…until it was midnight. I also had to add water to thin it back out a couple of times. Next time it is definitely the pressure cooker!

I can’t say that I remember eating this at my grandmother’s, but the aroma was very familiar, so I guess I remember smelling it.

Serve with a loaf of crusty (and preferably beer-filled!) bread and salad.

Something about this chowder made Mark want to pose like a senior portrait. Mark is a unique individual.

This is unrelated to food (although he did write an article for Gourmet magazine), but David Foster Wallace is dead. This is especially shocking to me because I am actually currently reading Infinite Jest. RIP, David.


  1. Destiny Said,

    September 14, 2008 @ 3:47 pm

    Looks great! I love veganizing family favorites. Mark is hilarious, by the way.

  2. Mom Said,

    September 16, 2008 @ 8:39 am

    Your version looks just like the original when done. I should have mentioned it makes a ton of chowder. I think that is why I had to get a big soup pot instead of trying to fit it in my Dutch oven. I don’t know how many times we actually had this over Grandmother’s. It may have just been once and I asked her for the recipe.

  3. Mihl Said,

    September 16, 2008 @ 9:36 am

    I think I love your grandmother! This looks so yummy and comforting.

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