Canned Tomatoes & Cassoulet

Last summer I did something I've never done before -- I canned tomatoes. It all worked out OK but I struggled, as I had none of the necessary canning tools such as a rack for inside the pot and most importantly, those tong-thingies to lift the searing hot jars out of the boiling water bath. The tomatoes were from my parents' fantastic garden, St. Phocus Garden. I did them Italian style with a little salt, onion, garlic, and fresh basil (from my own garden). Our family has enjoyed them all winter and now as tomato planting season approaches, I find myself rationing the last 3 jars.

With two of those precious jars, I made a faux-cassoulet based on Mark Bittman's Fourty-Minute Cassoulet (How to Cook Everything - 10th Anniversary Ed., p. 786). In my peasant style, I used no duck fat, opting for crispy-cooked bacon and a drop of liquid smoke to add depth and warmth. The main meat ingredient was a brined Pork Tenderloin. (I like Alice Waters' brine recipe.) I would also recommend some sweet Italian sausage in the mix.

Peasant's Table Cassoulet
6 strips of thickly sliced bacon
1c cabernet sauvignon
4c chopped canned or stewed tomato, including juice
5 cloves chopped garlic
4c white beans (save and use liquid as needed)
salt, to taste
cayenne pepper, to taste
2 drops liquid smoke
1 pork tenderloin (1-1.5 lb) cut into cubes
4-6 sweet italian sausages

Preheat oven to 350 and roast the bacon until crispy (place strips across a rack on a baking sheet to catch grease drippings). Add bacon drippings to a dutch oven and brown the sausage in the dutch oven on the stove top. Set sausages aside. Loosen browned bits with wine. Add the tomatoes and garlic and bring to a boil. Add the beans and return to a boil. Simmer on medium-low for about 20 minutes, adding liquid as necessary. Stir-in the salt, cayenne and liquid smoke, and add the sausage and tenderloin chunks. Simmer, stirring occasionally until the meat is cooked evenly throughout. Crumble the bacon into about 1-inch chunks and stir in to the cassoulet. Serve with rice, tender salad greens (dressed only with olive oil, salt and pepper), thick slices of buttered homemade bread, and (of course) that bottle of wine you opened to make the cassoulet!

Find more posts like this on my food blog, The Peasant's Table.