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...

3 Responses:

Deirdre said...

Love this Shady Character!

Made a stove top pot of beans in a coated cast iron pot today. Didn't realize sweetness would keep the beans from cracking...perhaps a reason to add a little sweetness. I used Penzey's smoked spanish paprika and recommend it for the additional smoky character. I also use a fresh chorizo sausage from the grocery store rather than bacon, less fatty, and four ounces goes a really long way. I keep the beans pretty I mash some of the beans to absorb.

Love fall cooking!

Shady Character said...

I LOVE that idea about the chorizo. We keep some on hand for whatever, including pizzas so I'll have to give that a try!

Michigoose said...

Skip the metallic pots, unless of course, they are enameled. I actually prefer to use a crock pot for my beans. Remember, bean pots were traditionally pottery and were stuck in the back of the bee-hive ovens to cook slowly while you did all your other cooking.