A Gøtlander Tradition in Memory of a Black Day
THE HISTORY: (skip to recipe)
In the year 817, a human king named Mekkel Drakken V developed a wish to build a proper castle for himself to replace the creaky, drafty old wooden keep of his fathers. Having heard of the fabled, granite stones of the dwarven fortress city of Kellamsee, unique for their obsidian black character specked with white, he resolved to obtain a proper quantity of the so-called "snowstone" granite for the construction of his new castle. King Mekkel V had a well-earned reputation for simply taking what he wanted, and had no intent to honorably purchase anything from these “lesser beings.” So he sent his very best “ambassadors” to Kellamsee with a fleet of merchant vessels and cargo barges, heavily garrisoned with nearly a legion of armed troops.
The Kyng of Gøtland, a stout dwarf named Bulgo Jarlssen, knew of Mekkel V’s reputation and resolved not to be taken advantage of. Thanks to early warnings from faster-moving independent trade vessels, Kyng Jarlssen made immediate preparations. He ordered Ingar's Wall, the massive breakwater encircling Mirror Bay, fortified with seige engines. He further staged battalions of warriors along the great sea wall and the piers and docks of Kellamsee. When Drakken's fleet arrived at thirty vessels strong and flying flags of merchants and tradesmen, the sharp-eyed Haønite sentries quickly discerned King Drakken's ruse.
The dwarven nation reacted as one might expect: with a warning. A 600-pound chunk of granite was hurled out just ahead of the lead ship, showering the deck with seawater. The commander of Drakken’s hordes unwisely signaled the ships to make for port with all haste, and soldiers flooded into view on the decks. But the Gøtlanders were prepared: King Mekkel V had come for granite, and Kyng Jarlssen was more than accommodating. When the last trebuchet had loosed its payload, eighteen of the thirty invading vessels lay at the bottom of the bay. Three more limped out to sea before the merciless swells of the Sea of Winds finished them off. The remaining nine returned to their homeland to report their defeat.
As you can well imagine, this humiliation did not sit well with King Drakken. He executed every returning captain and began laying plans of retribution against the Gøtland home. In the year 828, having completed his preparations, Drakken launched his offensive. The result was nothing less than perfect devastation. Much could be told of the battle, including many lasting innovations of warfare. But suffice it to say despite Mekkel Drakken V being once again repelled and defeated, such was the ferocity of his attack that the dwarven home of Kellamsee was utterly destroyed, burned down to the salt-encrusted footings of its once proud harbor.
That black day is indelibly inked on the hearts of the long-lived Gøtlanders, and is solemnly remembered each year with the burning of huge fires at their mountaintop watchtowers throughout the lands. The fires serve not only as a memorial, but as a reminder to the world of Gøtland's perpetual, simmering rage over the treachery of Drakken.
Much was lost in the burning of Kellamsee, including the slaughter of all of their livestock and the razing of what few fields they had. Fortunately, dwarves are well disposed to preparing for hard times. In their larders carved deep beneath the fingers of the mountains, they had stored away long-lasting provisions including grain, dried herbs, spices and vegetables, salt, several hundredweight of salt-cured beef and pork, many barrels of dark, rich ale and even stronger spirits, and tons of dried black beans.
So it was that in the difficult winter that followed that horrific event, the surviving Gøtlander folk leaned heavily on what they had saved to see them through to Lifespring, and the trade relationships that would usher them to an eventual recovery. The dish that kept them well fed and warmed throughout that bitter and tearful winter (alongside their simmering hatred for King Mekkel Drakken V), was the aptly named Black Bean Simmer.
To make authentic Black Bean Simmer in the same manner as the dwarves of Kellamsee do, one must necessarily use food ingredients that have been either dried or otherwise preserved for long storage. Fresh ingredients may be used on occasion, so long as the cook recognizes with thankfulness the blessing of peaceful times such foods represent.
Ingredient List: (recipe serves 8-10)
3-4 cups dry black beans
1 to 1-1/2 lbs. chopped salt pork or dry-cured beef *
2 cups coarsely chopped dried mushrooms **
2 cans chopped tomatoes (if available)
1/2 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes
1/2 cup dry tomato powder ***
1/2 cup. dried onion flakes
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp. raw sugar or honey
1/4 cup chili powder
2 tbsp. meat rub spice blend †
1 tsp. ground black pepper
1 tbsp. dried garlic granules
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tbsp. dried oregano flakes
1 tsp. ground thyme
1 tsp. ground paprika
1 ale horn (approx 12 oz) dark ale ††
Salt to taste
Water to cook with
* A fresh meat recipe should include 2 lbs. lean ground meat (beef, pork, or turkey), 1/4 cup beef base paste, and 1 tbsp liquid smoke to approximate the flavor of cured meat.
** Use 3 cups of fresh mushrooms if your particular cavern is in abundance.
*** A full cup (8 oz.) of canned tomato paste may be substituted.
† Dwarven families each use their own favorite blend. Use yours!
†† If you don't have any Tregalheim Barrel-Aged Stonebreaker Stout on hand, we recommend North Coast Brewery's Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout.
The day before you plan to cook, thoroughly rinse the beans, then cover them with cool water in a bowl to soak for 1-2 hours. They will swell during soaking, so cover with plenty of water. Drain and rinse, then cover with water again for an overnight soak. Drain and rinse again. Add to your crock pot and cover with water to twice the depth of the beans. Set temperature to high and cover with a lid. If using a range top, set flame to high until you achieve a boil, then reduce the flame to achieve a strong simmer, and stir more frequently.
Measure out all dry ingredients, including your dry-cured meat, but set aside the salt and 2 tbsp. of sugar or honey. Once your beans are up to full temperature, stir in all the ingredients, but what you've set aside. If using fresh meat, brown in a skillet until fully cooked. While Gøtlanders traditionally kept the fat for the pot, you may choose to drain that off at this point. Add your cooked meat to the simmer.
Continue to simmer for several hours (feel free to dwell with loathing on King Drakken as you do), stirring occasionally and adding water as needed to keep your simmer from sticking, until the beans begin to soften. At this point, add any fresh or canned ingredients and lower cooking temperature to medium (low for range tops). After one hour, begin sampling and add salt and remaining sugar or honey to your particular taste. Your Black Bean Simmer is done when beans are soft but not mushy.
Serve in stoneware crockery bowls, with shredded hard cheese and any fresh herbs or garnish you may have on hand (cilantro serves exceptionally well) and fresh-baked, naturally-fermented bread. And don't forget to say a prayer for the brave Gøtlander souls who died defending Kellamsee from an evil tyrant on a quest for snowstone granite.
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Happy adventures, travelers!
Jason and Rose Bishop
Creators at Legends of Cyrradon