03 June 2012

Who Needs Pork and Beans?

Some time ago, I abandoned the brand of pork and beans that used to be my standard, VanCamp's, because they (like all of the alternatives at the supermarket) contain high-fructose corn syrup. And, since Kroger bought Schnuck's markets and has monopolized the Memphis area, I no longer have the latter's organic Full Circle beans at my disposal.

I was doing ribs for Memorial Day, though. And I had to have baked beans on the menu. I figured I could trek out to Whole Foods for an alternative, but I rarely feel like getting slapped in the face, twice. First, for enduring the often distracted, inconsiderates driving "outside the parkways." Then secondly, at the checkout. There really is justification, at times, for the sarcastic moniker, "Whole Paycheck."

Anyway, thinking about how I was going to put baked beans on the table for Memorial Day, I recalled a couple of times in the past where I'd ordered Kentucky Fried Chicken's baked beans that were undercooked, hard and white, floating in an orange-red liquid. This was evidence to me that they didn't start with pork and beans at all. So, with that, I tried my own version.

I started fairly early in the day because I'd already mentally committed to baking them twice as long to get the flavor, texture and color I wanted. I opened three cans of navy beans and poured them into my favorite heavy crock, undrained. After adding a chopped medium onion and my other usual baked bean ingredients, (molasses, brown sugar, ketchup, mustard and Worcestershire), I was astonished to see what looked and smelled like pork and beans sitting in front of me. So I added the same ingredients again, essentially doubling them. At this point the concoction was very soupy but was smelling about right. I figured this would be fine given the extended time I planned on baking them.

You might have noticed that I didn't put any pork or green pepper in this mix. For some reason I wanted to try making these vegetarian, so I left out bacon or jowl, but the green pepper is one of those things that I can take or leave in this dish and today I chose to leave it in the refrigerator. Sometimes I add extras to change things up a bit, like cumin, chile powder, or nutmeg, but not this time. I wanted this first try to be a "base" recipe.

Rather than baking them at my usual 350° F, I knocked the temperature back twenty-five degrees and baked them, uncovered, for an hour. I removed them from the oven, put a lid on them, and left them on the stovetop for about six hours, until about an hour before the ribs were done. I uncovered the bean crock, stirred up the beans and put it back in the oven at 350° for another hour.

I think these were some of the best baked beans I've ever made.

Get the recipe here.

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