Birnen, Bohnen und Speck
Birnen, Bohnen und Speck ("pears, beans and bacon") is a North German dish which is especially popular in the states of Schleswig-Holstein
Schleswig-Holstein is the northernmost of the sixteen states of Germany, comprising most of the historical duchy of Holstein and the southern part of the former Duchy of Schleswig...

, Lower Saxony
Lower Saxony
Lower Saxony is a German state situated in north-western Germany and is second in area and fourth in population among the sixteen states of Germany...

, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and Hamburg
-History:The first historic name for the city was, according to Claudius Ptolemy's reports, Treva.But the city takes its modern name, Hamburg, from the first permanent building on the site, a castle whose construction was ordered by the Emperor Charlemagne in AD 808...

. It also goes under the names of Bohnen, Birnen und Speck and, locally, the Low German
Low German
Low German or Low Saxon is an Ingvaeonic West Germanic language spoken mainly in northern Germany and the eastern part of the Netherlands...

 names of Beer'n, Bohn un Speck, Grööner Hein and Grönen Heini. The ingredients required mean that the dish is mainly eaten in the months of August and September.
The dish is a type of stew
A stew is a combination of solid food ingredients that have been cooked in liquid and served in the resultant gravy. Ingredients in a stew can include any combination of vegetables , meat, especially tougher meats suitable for slow-cooking, such as beef. Poultry, sausages, and seafood are also used...

, in which—as the name indicates—the main ingredients are pear
The pear is any of several tree species of genus Pyrus and also the name of the pomaceous fruit of these trees. Several species of pear are valued by humans for their edible fruit, but the fruit of other species is small, hard, and astringent....

s, bean
Bean is a common name for large plant seeds of several genera of the family Fabaceae used for human food or animal feed....

s and bacon
Bacon is a cured meat prepared from a pig. It is first cured using large quantities of salt, either in a brine or in a dry packing; the result is fresh bacon . Fresh bacon may then be further dried for weeks or months in cold air, boiled, or smoked. Fresh and dried bacon must be cooked before eating...

. In addition, it goes without saying in North German country kitchens that potato
The potato is a starchy, tuberous crop from the perennial Solanum tuberosum of the Solanaceae family . The word potato may refer to the plant itself as well as the edible tuber. In the region of the Andes, there are some other closely related cultivated potato species...

es would be added, even though they are not specifically mentioned.


Generally cut French beans (Brechbohnen) are used. In Hamburg on the markets occasionally Turkish peas may be found, a Vierlande bean variety that used to be frequently used for this dish. During preparation several sprigs of savory are added to the beans.

The pears used for this dish are cooking pears which would otherwise be inedible eaten as fruit in their own right. They are small, green, rock-hard and do not have the sweetness and juiciness of the popular eating varieties. These pears are mainly found at markets and in small vegetable shops. In the Hamburg area, other varieties are used: the Vierländer and the rather sweeter Finkenwerder
Finkenwerder is a quarter of Hamburg, Germany in the borough Hamburg-Mitte. It is the location of a plant of Airbus and its airport...

cooking pears. The Vierländer sort have a slightly firmer consistency after cooking which is preferred by many.
These cooking pears are only available from July to September, subject to the weather. As a last resort for those who have missed the right season, Bürgermeisterbirne pears may be used. They are not as sweet when raw and are clearly sweeter.

The bacon used is streaky, smoky bacon. Here, too, it is important if the dish is to taste its best not to use 'any old bacon'. The origin—whether from the Vierlande, the Black Forest
Black Forest
The Black Forest is a wooded mountain range in Baden-Württemberg, southwestern Germany. It is bordered by the Rhine valley to the west and south. The highest peak is the Feldberg with an elevation of 1,493 metres ....

 or Tyrol
Tyrol (state)
Tyrol is a state or Bundesland, located in the west of Austria. It comprises the Austrian part of the historical region of Tyrol.The state is split into two parts–called North Tyrol and East Tyrol–by a -wide strip of land where the state of Salzburg borders directly on the Italian province of...

—is immaterial; all of them are suitable and offer a variety of interesting flavours. The deciding factor is the storage of the bacon. Only streaky bacon that has been air-dried and stored produces when cooked that pleasant taste of seasoned fat that melts in the mouth. Bacon, which—as is common today—has been stored hygienically in its vacuum wrapper, only produces a sort of fibrous stringiness after being cooked.

The Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein preference is to add potatoes to their Bohnen, Birnen und Speck that are still firm when cooked—such as the Cilena or Linda varieties. In Land Hadeln
Land Hadeln
Land Hadeln is a historic landscape and former administrative district in North Germany with its seat in Otterndorf on the lower reaches of the River Elbe, in the Elbe-Weser Triangle between the estuaries of the Elbe and Weser...

 beef or lamb can also be cooked along with the bacon.


According to taste the bacon in placed either in complete strips or cut up into water which is then brought to the boil. Meanwhile the beans are cleaned, washed and cut into sections. After 25 minutes of cooking the beans are added together with the savory to the bacon and cooking continues.
The flowers are removed from the pears, but the stalks are left on. The pears are left with their skins on throughout. They are now laid on the beans and everything is cooked together.

The peeled potatoes are boiled separately in salted water. Towards the end of the overall cooking time of about 50 minutes some flour is mixed with water, poured into the pot and briefly boiled up.

Typical quantities for 4 people are:
  • 750 g beans
  • 500 g pears
  • 400 g bacon
  • 500 g potatoes
  • 1 sprig of savory
  • 2 tablespoons of flour

Each person is served one or two pears, a good portion of bacon, beans and potatoes and broth according to preference. A fresh beer
Beer is the world's most widely consumed andprobably oldest alcoholic beverage; it is the third most popular drink overall, after water and tea. It is produced by the brewing and fermentation of sugars, mainly derived from malted cereal grains, most commonly malted barley and malted wheat...

 goes well with the dish. This hearty meal tastes particularly good after a long walk in the country.

There are variations that do away with the savory, but add freshly chopped parsley
Parsley is a species of Petroselinum in the family Apiaceae, native to the central Mediterranean region , naturalized elsewhere in Europe, and widely cultivated as an herb, a spice and a vegetable.- Description :Garden parsley is a bright green hairless biennial herbaceous plant in temperate...

 towards the end, which use broth
Broth is a liquid food preparation, typically consisting of either water or an already flavored stock, in which bones, meat, fish, cereal grains, or vegetables have been simmered. Broth is used as a basis for other edible liquids such as soup, gravy, or sauce. It can be eaten alone or with garnish...

 instead of water for cooking (ready-made or home-made) or which use pepper
Black pepper
Black pepper is a flowering vine in the family Piperaceae, cultivated for its fruit, which is usually dried and used as a spice and seasoning. The fruit, known as a peppercorn when dried, is approximately in diameter, dark red when fully mature, and, like all drupes, contains a single seed...


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