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Why are Cassoulet Beans so expensive?

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I was at Surfas in Los Angeles the other day. I wanted to get dried Cannellini beans, but they didn't have any and saw that they had beautiful big Cassoulet beans and decided to get that instead. I also ended up getting Flageolet beans that were about $4 for a 16 oz bag.

When I got to the register the woman asked me if I realized that the Cassoulets were $20 for the 16 oz bag. I said "no, thank you for telling me, I won't get them". She didn't know why they cost so much more than the other beans.

Does anybody else know? I also googled Cassoulet beans and couldn't find any info on them.

TIA

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  1. it could be the store you were shopping from? Here they're $3.25/lb:
    http://www.suttonsbayspices.com/Dried...

    Canellini beans are typical for cassoulet, but if they're marketed as cassoulet beans and not canellini, they may be higher (marketing!). I know that even Goya has them in cans, and can't imagine anything from that company costing $20/lb!

    3 Replies
    1. re: Caralien

      These were labeled Cassoulet and were bigger than Cannelinis. They usually carry Cannelinis for $3-4 a lb.

      1. re: BombayUpWithaTwist

        my usual fall back: if it's good enough for Jacques Pepin, it's good enough for me:
        http://www.kqed.org/w/jpfastfood/reci...

        Never heard of cassoulet beans before this post. Cassoulet is the name of a slow roasted dish, so having special cassoulet beans I can only guess is marketing bravado (although I'm sure they're hand picked and sorted, organic, certified, and undoubtedly good--no sarcasm here--but the price for what was considered a rural dish? rather outrageous)

        1. re: Caralien

          It was also the first time I'd seen Cassoulet Beans and I was intrigued.

    2. If you mean "haricots tarbais", they would be more expensive because they are protected by an EU geographical certification (i.e. they can only come from a specific region, in southwest France). So it's like buying Stilton or serrano ham as opposed to some generic blue cheese or ham. I don't know about 5 times more expensive, though.

      http://www.haricot-tarbais.com/eng/in...

      5 Replies
      1. re: DeppityDawg

        These were bigger about an inch long and 1/2 inch wide and very flat.

        1. re: BombayUpWithaTwist

          Sounds like gigantes, but not traditional for cassoulet. Tarbais, if you can get them are very nice, but cannelini work fine.

          1. re: BombayUpWithaTwist

            Oh, sounds more like "haricots de Soissons" or else those giant white beans you get in tomato sauce in Greek and Turkish restaurants. I remember being surprised by the price of those beans in the supermarket, too (and I would not consider using them in cassoulet…) Strange!

          2. re: DeppityDawg

            At Surfas, they do indeed have haricots tarbais. They are imported and considered "gourmet". However, it's a 2 lb bag for $20 (not that it's a much better deal!!!)

            As described

            The Tarbais bean must be harvested by hand and this insures the finest quality. One of the special qualities of the Tarbais bean is that it doesn't fall apart when reheated, but it also manages to maintain that melt-in-your-mouth texture. This also makes them perfect for bean salads, and any soup or casserole that calls for white beans.

            1. re: janetms383

              A variety of haricot blanc - white beans (or other beans for that matter) can be used in cassoulet. If you look in Paula Wolferts SW France book, she presents and describes recipes for cassoulet with favas and lentils as well as white beans. Cannelini type beans are one of the typical types used (I have used them successfully) and as has been stated the Tarbais beans are also a classic variety for this dish.

              It seems to me that in the US getting fresh beans is the biggest challenge and what you want is a source of nice, fresh beans. Expensive gourmet products can sit around stores much too long waiting for someone willing to pay those inflated prices, so if you are going to buy those "cassoulet beans" hopefully you should insist that they are dated and fresh.

          3. The people that said Haricot Tarbais were right and Janet was right about it being a 2 lb bag. Since I didn't closely examine it, I assumed it was 1 lb. I found the link on the Surfus website. Still, $20 for 2 lbs of beans is expensive.

            http://www.surfasonline.com/products/...

            5 Replies
            1. re: BombayUpWithaTwist

              I had a similar "Wha?" moment when I was looking through the Shaw's circular yesterday. They're selling chicken leg quarters (thigh and leg still attached, bone-in, skin-on) for $4.99 a pound. These are not gold-plated, free-range, organic, hand-massaged chickens. This was -Purdue- chicken!

              I wanted to call the store and say "Really? You're charging more for LEG QUARTERS than for top round steak? Seriously? Are you sure that's not a typo?"

              It gets me wondering... is someone BUYING it at that price??

              Heck, I grumble if the mass-produced chicken leg quarters are over $1.50 a pound! I shoot for buck a pound on sale.

              I can't think of any reason why dried -beans- should be $10 a pound. :) I suppose if they're hand picked, gold-plated, lovingly carried in specially padded containers in first class on a Virgin Air flight.... :)

              1. re: Morganna

                It is also possible for food to be too cheap… but there are plenty of other threads about that already.

                Now I'm picturing a brand new Airbus A380 with one gold-plated bean lovingly strapped into each one of its 800 seats. That still doesn't add up to a pound. Must build bigger planes!

                1. re: Morganna

                  Are you sure about the chicken? At our local market, they frequently sell a 10 lb bag of leg quarters for about $4.99 ($0.49 per pound).

                  But in any case, it does make me wonder whether the "cassoulet" beans were mispriced.

                  1. re: k_d

                    I looked at the ad several times and checked it in the store last night. They were charging $4.99 A POUND!!! :)

                    1. re: Morganna

                      i would've had to be miss snoopy mcsnoop-pants and ask the manager "why"......

              2. As stated, haricot tarbais come from a specific region of France near city of Tarbes, close to Toulouse. Beans cost a lot there as well, last year was there for season, November is when they are released, and cost @ 16 Euros a kilo, about same as $20 for 2 pounds. As also stated must be not too old as dry too much and more difficult to cook to right texture. And as also stated by Janetms383, when cooked properly they melt in your mouth and are the BEST bean. As long as financially possible for me it is the bean for long cooked bean dishes. If your flagolet beans were the size of a small Good & Plenty and are light green, $4 a pound is a steal if they are French ones, while not as expensive as Tarbais over there, they are still quite pricey.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                  Yes, the flageolet are as you described, Good & Plenty etc., but I'm not sure if they are actually from France.

                  We are lucky in LA that there is a store such as Surfas. They have so many items which are hard to find in usual stores. On this trip my purpose was to get dried hominy to make a Mexican posole. Most stores only carry canned. I just happened to come across the Tarbais.

                  Also, I was quite happy and surprised that they sold Iberico ham from Spain. It was expensive @ $110 per pound, but I ended up purchasing that and that was well worth the price! They even sell the bones including the hoof, so I got that to make stock. I'll probably make a bean soup with it.

                  http://www.surfasonline.com/products/...

                2. Go to the Purcell Mountain Farms website for a good explanation of why these beans are so expensive. (BTW, I buy lots of beans and grains from this company, and am impressed by their high quality.)

                  1. This won't work for everyone, of course, but I was just whining about the same thing and my dh had a flash of brilliance: grow them. So far the seeds I've found online are on the pricey side, too, but you know, I'd rather grow'em organically and have them fresh & local even if it's not a huge savings. Yum, beans.

                    1. I got a bag of Tarbais beans from Surfas last year - yes, lots of $$, but I wanted to try them. Now I learn (here) that they need to be cooked while still fairly new. Ouch! I think I probably blew it - and this right after throwing out not quite half a five-pound bag of canellini because they'd gotten too old as well.

                      There are locally available beans that I've made very tasty cassoulet from, though; the peruano beans you can buy in bulk at places like Food 4 Less are downright delicious - look kind of like a crossbreed of canellini and flageolet - and the White Cats that the brussels-sprouts guy at the Pasadena Saturday Farmers Market has sometimes are just over the top.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: Will Owen

                        ALL beans should be cooked while fairly new, not just Tarbais.

                        1. re: Will Owen

                          I love fancy and obscure ingredients, but I have to say that I have not noticed any difference between fancy beans and plain old supermarket navy beans in cassoulet at least.

                          I didn't know that Tarbes was known for its beans--I passed through there on a Sunday a few years back and found it to be...rather quiet and dull. Had I known, I probably would have tried to find an open market to procure some beans (which would have been the highlight of that particular trip...).

                          1. re: zamorski

                            Some of your best food towns are dull and ugly; I've never been to Bologna, but I've read and heard it's pretty boring and un-scenic, and when we passed through Lyon on the Autoroute we were creeping through smoggy industrial wasteland for half an hour. But then we got to have lunch in Aix-en-Provence, which was both gorgeous and delicious. Ya can't never tell...

                            If you have bean sellers at your local farmer's market, try any variety from them, and you WILL taste a difference from supermarket beans. Newly-dried beans from this year's crop are always woth eating. Got some purple runners simmering downstairs now...YES!!

                          2. re: Will Owen

                            Last year's beans still should be fine,assuming they were not kept in high temps and dried out. Make a simple bean soup and see. They , when good, will stay together and literally melt on your tongue. If a little crunchy, keep cooking and eventually they will melt. Found mine 'melt' even if many years old if cooked long enough.