Sausage and Black Bean Soup

blackbeansoupI love soups and stews. I truly do. This soup is a derivative of fresh, previously fresh, and local flavors that all meld together in a literal melting pot of culinary delight.

Sausage from M&T Meats in Hawkinsville mixed with Conecuh Sausage from Evergreen, Alabama add a layer of savory, smoky flavor as well as depth to this soup. Stewed tomatoes, put up from last summer, and black beans all swirl around in a big ol’ pot with cumin, cayenne, and a Vidalia roux.

Rouxs rule! A roux, or a cooked mixture of fat and flour, is the flavor foundation for this soup. A roux is the classical thickener for the French mother sauces, yet a Cajun roux is a bit different from its classical cousin. The roux for this soup is more so of a Cajun roux, though not totally authentic…a Cajun roux takes a long time to properly make – this one not so much. I also did not use flour since I used onion powder and cumin, thus making up the starch portion of the roux’s makeup. Typically a one to one ratio fat to starch is called for in a roux…this combo works just fine!

Some good olive oil and a medium high heat start browning the translucent Vidalia’s. Salt and pepper of course flavor the onions while they to continue to brown. Once the onions begin to show some color, add half a stick of butter, then onion powder, cumin, and cayenne. Vigorously stirring the spices into the browning onions and butter will create your roux and, thus, your soup’s cornerstone.

blackbeansausageNow, as for the sausage, I used the combo of a mild smoked one from M&T I had on hand and another mild one - Conecuh sausage. This super sausage is available in most grocery stores and is produced in Evergreen, Alabama – isn’t that grand!

I sliced the sausages into thin rounds and roasted them in the oven until the little bits were crisps rounds of amazing flavor. These sausage lardoons add a bite and breadth of flavor to the soup that is simply amazing. What are lardoons? Just cooking gold! Strips or cubes of pork fat and meat used to flavor a dish or “lard” a lean piece of meat. Whether sausage or bacon or other cured pork, lardoons are a fantastic asset and vehicle to a marvelous depth of flavor. I also browned some ground beef for added texture and heartiness. No doubt, though, the lardoons and Vidalia roux are the powerhouse flavors of this dish!

Holy frijoles! Last but not least are the black beans. I can eat black beans salted with a bit of sour cream any time, and these richen up this dish as well as thicken it too. Thus, a dollop of sour cream or some sharp white cheddar cheese garnishes this soup as perfect complements. Since I am always a goner for a sweet and salty combo, I whipped up some honey cornbread to balance the savory nature of the soup. Whether you are making some homemade cornbread or a quick box (Jiffy and Krusteaz are always easy breezy), heat some oil in your iron skillet or cooking dish first so the edges will be crispy.

Whenever I can cook an entire meal in one pot, serve it right off the stove, and keep it for a couple of days, I am a happy camper. This soup ranks high in this Farmer’s kitchen and I hope ya’ll love it too!

Sausage and Black Bean Soup

One package of Conecuh Sausage cut into thin rounds…I used the mild…there’s still plenty of heat.
2 medium Vidalia Onions finely chopped... Invest in a Vidalia Chop Wizard!!! It is awesome!
Heaping tablespoon of minced garlic
One package of lean ground beef…about a pound
2 tablespoons of onion powder
2 tablespoons of cumin
1 tablespoon of garlic salt
1 teaspoon of cayenne…more if you like it spicy!
Half a stick of unsalted butter
2 tablespoons of good olive oil
2 jars of “put up” summer tomatoes or 2 cans of stewed tomatoes
2 cans of black beans with the “bean juice”…don’t drain the liquid
1 can of tomato paste

Slice sausage into rounds and scatter the sausage onto a baking sheet. Bake at 350F until crispy around the edges. Remove and drain any excess oil. Try to resist eating all the little lardoons now, but one or two bites won’t hurt!

Heat olive oil over medium high heat…add chopped onions and salt and pepper to taste. Once the onions begin to show some color, add the butter, onion powder, and cumin. Stir vigorously so you have a pot o’ gold forming… a gold/brown roux full of flavor!

After stirring for about a minute, add the ground beef, garlic, garlic salt, and cayenne pepper. Stir to incorporate everything together. Continue to cook the meat until fully brown.

Once the meat is totally cooked, add the tomatoes, tomato sauce, and black beans and bring to a boil, adding water if needed for desired consistency.

Toss in roasted sausage, stir the pot and serve! Serve with cornbread, dollops of sour cream or shredded sharp white cheddar. How easy it that?! 

James T. Farmer III was born and raised in Georgia, where he continues to live and work as a landscape designer. He shares his love of food, flowers and photography on his blog All Things Farmer.