When I think of sousboontjies, I think of the jars of caramelized butter bean salad produced by Koo and Gants Foods that I bought in the 1970s, ‘80s and 90s. These saucy, sweet-sour beans were the perfect accompaniment to braais and cold meats. It appears that Koo still produces sousboontjies, but sells them as ‘Bean Salad’. The on-line image looks the same, but I haven’t seen or bought these for years!
Traditional bean salad (sousboontjies) is made by boiling speckled beans, also known as sugar beans, until soft and then combining them with sugar, vinegar, and salt. They can be bottled or used as needed from the fridge for a few days. This recipe, made with pinto beans, is in our book on page 97.
After numerous tests I believe I now have the sousboontjies I remember. I used large lima beans (also known as butter beans) and caramelized the sugar before mixing it with the vinegar and adding it to the beans. I used malt vinegar, sold locally as fish and chip vinegar, but red wine vinegar should work well too.
If you’re a fan of beans, try this easy, make-ahead salad recipe and let me know what you think.
- 1 cup dried large lima beans
- water for soaking
- 2½ (approximately) + ¼ cups water
- ½ cup sugar
- ⅛ teaspoon cream of tartar
- ½ cup malt or red wine vinegar
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- Rinse and sort the beans.
- Place them in a large bowl or saucepan, cover liberally with cold water and set aside to soak for 6-8 hours or overnight.
- Rinse the soaked beans well under cold running water.
- Place in a large, heavy-based saucepan with 2½ cups water. Bring to the boil and simmer for about an hour until the beans are soft. Add a little water if necessary.
- When the beans are almost done, put the sugar, cream of tartar and ¼ cup of water in a small heavy-based saucepan.
- Slowly bring to the boil while stirring, until the sugar has dissolved.
- Keep it at a rolling boil without stirring for 8-10 minutes until it changes color - to light brown. Watch carefully as it can easily burn.
- Remove from the heat and very carefully stir in the vinegar. Watch out as it will splatter! Mix until evenly combined.
- Add to the beans, together with the salt, and mix well. Set aside to cool before adjusting the consistency by either mashing a few more beans or adding a little water.
- Serve cold.