Sunday, November 21, 2010

Baked Beans Part 2

Swift on the heels of my first foray into bean baking I made another attempt. This time I chose to use different beans, a different recipe and a different technique. The Dutch oven was in need of reseasoning yet again before I could use it but the house was shut up tight due to the onset of winter. Without adequate ventilation for that smoky process I decided to turn to the programmable slow cooker instead.

The beans in this batch were Lina Cisco Bird Egg that I had grown and harvested fresh rather than dried. This method worked well because I could pick and shell large or small amounts and just keep adding them to the zip-top bags in the freezer.

Since the beans weren't dried I skipped soaking them and tossed them directly into the cooker. The recipe I used was "Classic Baked Beans" from "The Everything Healthy Slow Cooker Cookbook" by Rachel Rappaport. As with many slow cooker recipes, the ingredients were all just dumped in together. The only other cooking needed was frying the bacon. I used the real thing this time since the whole recipe only called for two slices.

The essential onion and garlic were added. And where the recipe called for "spicy mustard" I used a mixture of horseradish bratwurst mustard and jalapeno mustard.

Salt, pepper, molasses, brown sugar, water, chili sauce and cloves rounded out the ingredient list. Though I set out to follow the recipe exactly, I forgot to add the cloves. The chili sauce I purchased specifically to make this dish is practically indistinguishable from ketchup.

Ew. That's not too appetizing. Let's add the water and give it all a stir. Now it looks more like food.

Knowing the shell beans would probably take less time to cook than soaked dried beans I set the cooker for six hours rather than the eight to ten the recipe called for.

As it turned out, the beans were sufficiently cooked in only four hours--If I remember correctly. I either didn't make a note of the cooking time or lost it. I cooled them and stuck them in the refrigerator. A few nights later reheated some on the stovetop to serve with dinner.

We served the beans with scrumptious pork chops topped with Door County cherry salsa and a side of coleslaw. Yum!

The flavor was smoky and rich thanks to the bacon and again, not too sweet. However, the slightly metallic undertone was there again! In the previous batch I had blamed it on the cast iron Dutch oven. Now I'm not so sure. the current suspect is the fancy schmancy organic molasses I used in both batches. I'm half tempted to try a different brand--probably the classic standby my mother uses. Then I'd just have to figure out what to do to get rid of an almost full jar of expensive organic molasses! I seem to remember my father using it as a supplement to feed cattle. Maybe this will be my excuse to get a nice little Jersey cow for the back yard...

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Baked Beans Part 1

I love baked beans. We serve so many meals that include them it's ironic we buy the canned ones when making our own wouldn't be that difficult and possibly more economical. I made a couple of batches in the last month using two different methods and the results surprised me. The recipe I used is an altered version of Alton Brown's. I'll point out the changes I made as I go along.

For the first batch I used beans I got for free--can't beat that! Our garden neighbor had a bunch of pole beans mature and dry. He didn't want them them so I picked and shelled them. They're an unknown variety and definitely not the white Great Northerns the recipe calls for. The color was more of a medium brownish tan. Referring to my many catalogs I might say they fall into the category of yellow beans.

Before I could actually start cooking I ended up having to re-season our Dutch oven. Apparently when we used it last time we either cooked something acidic in it or cleaned it too thoroughly when we were done. A few small spots of rust had developed on the bottom and inside the lid. After that time-consuming task I was finally ready to bake some beans!

The actual cooking begins with the bacon and vegetables. To cut down on the fat but keep some smokiness I substituted Canadian bacon and reduced the amount to ten ounces. I used local onions and the jalapenos came right from our own garden.

I didn't want the finished beans to taste too sweet, so I reduced the brown sugar and molasses by half but kept the full amount of tomato paste. Ew. Not very pretty at this stage of the game. Taking an idea from one of the comments posted on Alton's recipe I added a crushed calcium citrate tablet to make up some for the reduced molasses. After all, everyone knows that the combination of sugar and calcium keeps the beans from cracking.

In the pot it was starting to look like food!

And after adding the soaked beans and broth (I substituted chicken because we had some) it was really starting to look like--soup? I was a little skeptical that the beans were going to soak up that much liquid.

But after several hours--I don't remember exactly how many but it wasn't the six to eight the recipe calls for--the liquid was absorbed and the beans were done. AND, as you can see in this image, the Dutch oven had lost it's seasoning again! In fact, the inside of the lid was stripped completely!

Final assessment? Despite the bacon switch and reduction this was a meaty pot of beans. I could see further reducing the meat and adding some smoked Spanish paprika to maintain the smokiness in future batches. Also, the sweetness was still pretty high. Not too cloying, but definitely noticeable. But worst of all, the dish carried a distinct metallic flavor. I'm attributing that to the iron that got in as the steam corroded the Dutch oven. They were not horrible, though so we ate them of course, first with a pork chop and a side of braised cabbage.

In my next post I'll be cooking up some beans again with a different twist and perhaps a mystery solved...