Finding home in a comforting bowl of bean swagan

By Jim Bailey

Nothing in my repertoire says Yankee, comfort and home quite like bean wwagan. Yankee Chef logoIt was the first dish Dad  taught me to make, besides biscuits, when I was 14. I’ve enjoyed it ever since. All us Yankee Chefs have stood by one recipe through the years, making swagan only with beans, ham, ketchup and water. That’s it!

So what do I do? Now that my mentors are gone, I am Yanking this thick soup, by adding some great sausage I get from and a vegetable or two. If you prefer not to add ketchup, use tomato sauce instead. But I find the spices in ketchup fit perfectly with recipe, as did 2 generations before me. So if anyone rolls his eyes because this isn’t a gourmet ingredient … so what?

Bean Swagan is a traditional New England dish.

Bean Swagan is a traditional New England dish.

Bean Swagan

2 cups dried Great Northern Beans
4 cups vegetable broth
1/4 cup diced carrots
1 link cooked of sweet or hot Italian sausage
2 tablespoons minced onion
1/4 cup ketchup
Salt and black pepper to taste
Parsley for garnish

To cook in a crock pot: Remove casing from sausage. Add sausage to a large skillet, place over medium high heat and cook,  stirring until cooked through, about 3 to 5 minutes. Remove sausage from skillet, without the grease and place in a small crock pot, turned on high. Add vegetable broth, carrots and onion and bring to a boil, covered. Once boiling, reduce heat to low and simmer 5 hours or until beans are soft and broken. Simply stir in ketchup and season to taste, garnish with parsley if desired and serve immediately.

Stove top method:
Follow instructions for crock pot but brown and cook the sausage in the pot you will be cooking the swagan in. You will also need to stir it frequently to prevent scorching on bottom. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and cook for about 1 hour, uncovered, until beans are very soft. We covered the crock pot only because I don’t like leaving anything uncovered while not at home. If at home, certainly do not put the cover on.

A great “mix-in” for bean swagan is:

1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 cup creme fraiche

In a coffee grinder, or with mortar and pestle, grind the fennel seeds and dried thyme to powder. Mix in with creme fraiche.
Yankee Chef book coverSchiffer Books of Pennsylvania has released Jim Bailey’s new book The Yankee Chef: Feel Good Food for Every Kitchen. It contains more than 550 traditional New England comfort-food recipes tweaked for today’s palates with hundreds of kitchen tips and food facts. The hardback book is 312 pages and contains 200 color images. Its ISBN is 978-0-7643-4191-5 and the cost is $34.99. The book can be ordered through Misty Valley Books, 802-875-3400.

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Filed Under: Community and Arts LifeThe Yankee Chef

About the Author: Jim Bailey is a third generation Yankee Chef, New England food historian and newspaper columnist. His first cookbook, simply titled The Yankee Chef, has been published. He welcomes all feedback, questions or comments at

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