On the Island of Öland, situated in the south of Sweden in the Baltic Sea, the cultivation of brown beans, or “bruna bönor”, can be traced back to around 1650. Today dry brown beans are still cultivated on Öland, but imported beans from South America, China or Canada can be found at lower prices.
Demand for beans is very low among restaurant owners and consumers, and the market is slowly disappearing. There are still 43 farmers on the island who cultivate the beans, joined in a Slow Food Presidium, a project to protect this fragile heritage from extinction.
Traditionally, the brown beans are used in the preparation of a typical Swedish stew. On the occasion of the International Year of Pulses, why not give it a try?
500 g (1 lb) Öland Island brown beans (or other beans)
100 g pancetta or bacon
3 tbsps sugar
1.5 tbsps vinegar
salt to taste
Soak the beans in a liter (4 cups) of water for 8-10 hours, then drain and rinse under running water. Boil the beans in salted water until soft, then drain.
Put the pancetta or bacon in pan over medium heat until crispy, remove and set aside. Add the onion to the leftover bacon fat and sauté until soft, adding more cooking oil if necessary. Stir in the sugar, vinegar and salt along with one liter of water. Simmer for 20 minutes.
Add the beans and continue cooking until ingredients are well amalgamated and a thick stew consistency is formed.
Serve the beans together with pork belly, bacon, sausage or meatballs.