This past weekend there was another wedding at the farm. It was for Chef's Ashley and Derek (see the adorable newlyweds enjoying a grape pie), so the kitchen was left in the hands of Trevor to pull off a pig roast with appropriate sides.
One of the sides was baked beans. While it does take time, the task isn't overly difficult. And the results - quite yummy.
General Bean Cookery
Step 1: Sort through your beans to sort out stones, dirt, or broken beans. Soak beans in cold water, in the refrigerator, for 24 hours. Cover the beans with 2 to 3 inches of water as they will soak up quite a bit of water.
Step 2: Drain the beans from the water and rinse. Add to a stock-pot with cold water and bring to a boil.
Step 3: Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and cook until soft. This can take a while.
Incorporating the Ham Hock
Depending on your desired final result, you can either cook the beans with the ham hock or make ham broth to use later in seasoning. I tend to make ham broth then use that as I don't have to worry about fishing out the bones, vegetables scraps, etc.
To make ham broth, think about making stock. Simply add your ham hock to a stock pot with a rough chopped onion, some celery leaves or stalks, a few cloves of garlic, and a few carrots. Bring to a simmer and simmer for 4 to 8 hours, adding water to keep the ham hock covered.
After all of the flavor is extracted from the smoked ham hock meat, bone, and vegetables, you may reduce your stock to desired consistency. Strain out the meat and solid pieces and refrigerate the stock overnight. The next day, scrape any fat off of the surface and return the stock to the stove. Reduce by half or until desired consistency.
Use this rich ham broth to season your beans, greens, or even to make a soup.
Making Baked Beans
Baked beans start with cooked beans and flavored liquids. In this case, I'm talking about rich stock, bbq sauce, tomatoes, etc.
For the baked beans I made this past weekend, I used a combination of kidney and pinto for color and texture. After they were cooked, I added them to a large dutch oven with reduced beef stock, ham broth, rough chopped tomatoes, and sauted onions and garlic. Fortunately, Chef Derek had been experimenting with BBQ sauce so I had a good start there. He made a house made ketchup as the base, then doctored it up with apple cider vinegar, sorghum, apple butter, brown sugar, and spices.
I mixed the bbq sauce with more sorghum, more vinegar, and tomato sauce (made from fresh tomatoes, not seasoned). I adjusted the salt and pepper, and added more sorghum again until the sweetness was right. The beans should be swimming in the sauce like a thick stew. With the lid off, I baked the beans in the oven at 350 degrees. How long? It really depends how big your pan is. For me, it was a 20 quart container so it took a while.
The top will get toasty looking and bubbly. That's when they are done. Remove from the oven and serve with some pork, cornbread, and a salad.