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Slow Cooker Guernsey Bean Jar


It’s winter, it’s cold, it’s miserable, I could go on but what better way to banish the winter blues than coming home to a hearty, warming and delicious meal ?

Slow cookers, or crock pots, are proving very popular at the moment; there are plenty on sale for less than £20 and with running costs often less than a light bulb, it makes good economic sense. Well, I don’t need converting, I love my slow cooker and this is one of my favourite soup recipes.

Our friend in Guernsey gave me her bean jar recipe over 30 years ago – it was written on a scrap of paper and I still treasure it.
Guernsey Bean Jar is a traditional dish, very simple and depends on slow cooking for its success. Still popular today, Bean Jar is often served as soup of the day in Guernsey restaurants.
Right until the end of the German occupation of Guernsey, bean jars, covered with brown paper and tied up with string and the family name on a label, were taken to a bakery to cook overnight. Since there was no baking on a Sunday, ovens weren’t fired up and the bean jars would cook in the residual heat of the previous day’s baking.
Although almost everyone in Guernsey has a secret family recipe for a bean jar, there is one thing they all have in common: the simpler the better. Bean jar is a cheap and wholesome meal and ingredient variations depended on what was available. Our friend’s recipe uses pork but she has included a note to say shin of beef (or both pork and beef) can be used instead.




450 g (1 lb) butter/lima beans
450 g (1 lb) haricot/navy beans
4 tablespoons oil
2 large onions – diced
4 carrots – diced
700 g (1½ lb) ham hock or leg of pork on bone (or shin of beef)
3 – 4 bay leaves
2 sprigs of thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
Water for rinsing and to cover beans

Making your Bean Jar

To use dried beans in a slow cooker they must be properly soaked and cooked. Most beans contain varying amounts of a toxin known as kidney bean lectin, red kidney beans having the most. Throwing away the soaking and rinsing water gets rid of leached toxins and boiling the beans for at least 10 minutes with fresh water makes them safe to be added to the slow cooker where they need to be cooked on high setting for the first hour. It’s better to add salt near the end of the cooking time, as salt tends to toughen the bean skins.

  • Soak beans for at least 5 hours – preferably overnight.
  • Discard the water.
  • Rinse and boil beans in fresh water for 10 minutes.
  • Drain the beans and discard the cooking water.
  • Spray inside the slow cooker pot with cooking spray or lightly grease.
  • In a large frying pan, gentle sautée onions until soft – about 5 to 10 minutes.
  • Transfer the softened onions into the slow ccoker pot.
  • Set slow cooker on high.
  • Add carrots and stir.
  • Add beans to the slow cooker and push meat in amongst the beans.
  • Tuck bay leaves and sprig of thyme around the meat.
  • Season with pepper.
  • Add boiling water until it covers the ingredients.
  • Replace lid and cook on high for 1 hour – DO NOT OMIT THIS.
  • Turn slow cooker to low and cook for a minimum of 10 hours. Bean Jar can be cooked for up to 24 hours, I usually cook mine for 16 hours.
  • Do not disturb for at least 3 hours.
  • You may need to check the water level.
  • Season with salt and remove the meat bone from the slow cooker.

REMEMBER: each time you take the lid off your slow cooker, it adds 30 minutes to your cooking time.

Serve with crusty bread and Guernsey butter.


I’m entering Slow Cooker Guernsey Bean Jar into a few challenges this January:

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