Buffalo Beans with Cherrywood Smoked Bacon

Disclosure: I was compensated for this post by Jones Dairy Farm. All photos and opinions remain my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that help make this blog possible.

kids in Wyoming

My kids spent the last two weeks on a cross-country road trip adventure with my father-in-law…and he lived to tell the tale! I’m not sure what kind of crazy he is to have conceived of such a plan, but plan it, he did, and away they went to Wyoming and Montana via vehicle–a 3-day drive in each direction. With my son who sometimes gets carsick. And my daughter who often fights with my son. Surely, this man is an angel.

We didn’t hear much from them in the two weeks. Never gone for more than 4 days before, it was weird giving them up to a greater power and hoping for the best, knowing that it could be some time before we heard anything at all–good or bad. I only received a couple phone calls from them–on one, my son refused to talk about anything other than the snake he discovered that was in the middle of eating a toad. The legs were sticking out of the snake’s mouth and he watched as it was swallowed whole. Yes, this is fascinating stuff to a 7-year-old boy. On that same call, I also learned of their encounter with a black bear–twice on the same hike. It helped knowing they were in more-than-capable hands. But it was still a bit nerve-wracking.

photo by my daughter

The hardest part of the kids being away, however, was the loneliness.

At first, all I could think of was the freedom. Freedom to do whatever I pleased without having to arrange childcare. No need to take turns with my husband on who gets which night to do what. The world was my oyster.

Buffalo Beans with Cherrywood Smoked Bacon - Poet in the Pantry But that novelty quickly wore off and in the midst of our pursuits of pleasure, I found I lacked it entirely in the things I usually took joy in. I didn’t want to cook for just myself, so I ate out… a little too often. Eating out alone eventually became a chore. At my worst, I refused to make eye contact with anyone else–I wallowed in self-pity instead, alone, alone, alone.

The quiet wasn’t something I anticipated getting on my nerves either. I tend to stay up late after everyone is asleep, enjoying the peaceful calm of the middle of the night. It’s my refuge after a long day of ringing telephones and constant questions. But you need a yin to the yang; something to balance out that quiet, to transform it into something you yearn for. When there are no children’s voices filling the days–even with their frequent arguments and temper tantrums–it becomes empty somehow; hollow… Not at all what I expected.

I did bake during some of their trip. I turned to it for my old reason: centering. I had had a particularly stressful week at work and I had a lot on my mind and needed a way to work it all out of my head and into something more constructive. But I didn’t blog about it. It wasn’t that kind of baking. It was more of an “I need to spread the joy to someone else because I’m having a hard time finding it myself right now” kind of project. And that was fine, too.

Buffalo Beans with Cherrywood Smoked Bacon - Poet in the Pantry

It wasn’t until the day of their return that I entered the kitchen again with the purpose of creating something to be shared here, on the blog. And, in turn, it became something I could share with my kids, a bit wilted from 12 hours on the road and two weeks of backpacking, camping, and just plain adventure-seeking. I had a reason to cook again.

These Buffalo Beans are a riff off of my Aunt Denise’s famous dish. As far as our family goes, her beans make the picnic, and I seek them out every time we get together. Lucky for you, she shared her secret with me so I could make my own! The original called for ground beef and you can certainly use that–but I thought it would be more fun to use ground buffalo (bison) here, given their name. Then I spiced them up a bit and tossed in my favorite–bacon. Lots and lots of bacon. Jones Dairy Farm‘s Cherrywood Smoked Bacon, to be exact, which is dry-aged and so flavorful. They really make the beans sing!

Buffalo Beans with Cherrywood Smoked Bacon - Poet in the Pantry

What do you do for relief when you’re stressed out?

Buffalo Beans with Cherrywood Smoked Bacon
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Side Dish
Serves: 8-10
  • 1 pound ground bison (buffalo)
  • 8 ounces Jones Dairy Farm Cherrywood Smoked Bacon, chopped
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • ½ cup dark brown sugar
  • ¼ cup tomato paste
  • ⅔ cup barbecue sauce (your choice; I used Sweet Pineapple this time)
  • 2 Tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 1 Tablespoon horseradish mustard
  • 1¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • ¾ teaspoon cayenne pepper powder
  • ¼ teaspoon Chinese five spice
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
  • 1 16-ounce can light red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 15.5-ounce cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 28-ounce can baked beans with bacon and molasses
  1. In a large skillet, cook the ground buffalo, bacon, and onions until the buffalo is browned and the bacon is just starting to crisp up. Transfer to a 6-quart slow cooker.
  2. Add the sugar, tomato paste, barbecue sauce, mustard, maple syrup, cayenne, sea salt, pepper, and beans and stir to combine.
  3. Cook over low heat, covered, for 6 hours.
  4. Serve hot; leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Did you know that Jones Dairy Farm recently launched an online cookbook featuring 125 recipes – one recipe for every year the family-owned and operated company has been in business? The Celebrating Great Taste cookbook can be found at www.issuu.com/jonesdairyfarm and features recipes made with their extended line of products, including their all-natural sausage, dry-aged bacon, ham, Canadian bacon, turkey sausage, turkey bacon, braunschweiger, and scrapple. You’ll find a wide range of options, including some unexpected surprises, like candied bacon malted milkshakes and chocolate bacon toffee ice cream. Sign me up!

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  1. Yummy I can’t wait to make this as fall starts coming in!

    1. Definitely a fabulous fall dish! And a great alternative for regular ole chili!

  2. This sounds like a bean dish my husband might actually like!

    1. My husband claims he doesn’t like baked beans, but he ate two bowls of this! I think it’s close enough to chili–albeit, sweeter–that it’s a great transition dish. Convert!

  3. It’s 9AM but I would still love a big bowl of this right now, sounds so good!

  4. I will sing you a song now… Bacon, bacon, bacon, bacon, bacon!!! Yes, please beans and bacon!

  5. I find my biggest stress-relief is getting into the kitchen. I find it relaxing, especially when it’s just to be in the moment and not to write about later. Sometimes I just need to be there cooking, baking , whatever.

    BTW – this recipe sounds delicious. Bacon really does makes everything better!

    • Theresia on 8 October, 2014 at 12:55 pm
    • Reply

    Could this be a main dish? If so what would you serve along with it? Corn bread? Thanks!

    1. Absolutely! In fact, that’s how I ate it. Corn bread wouldn’t be a bad idea, but keep in mind that this is a bit sweeter than, say, chili. I like to balance my sweet with savory, if possible. I would probably opt for a crusty French bread for a carb slathered with some good Irish butter and maybe even go crazy and have balsamic roasted Brussels sprouts or something else green for a veg.

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