Monday, January 2, 2012

Baked Beans

I'm mostly posting this for myself, since we had this tonight and it was outstanding.  However, if anyone else out there is like me and does not like split pea soup and/or navy bean soup, baked beans are an excellent alternative use for a ham bone.  The downside is that it takes about 9 hours of intermittent care.  I didn't so much mind that today, though, since my kids haven't wanted to leave the house since Christmas (that Santa and his awesome taste in toys).  In the end, with the amazing flavor of the beans, I'd say it might have been worthwhile.  This isn't something I would make frequently, but this is definitely something I would make yearly with my ham bone.
A side-note about bone-in ham.  I discovered last Christmas season, upon buying a ham on the 26th, that having a 10 lb. ham hanging around once a year was a pretty cost-effective kind of meat.  This year, for example, we will have gotten 8 dinners out of it and it flavored a couple of breakfasts too.  About half of this is ham that goes into the freezer for the future.  Ham freezes great and thaws great - so does bacon if you've never tried it.  So, even though that big hunk-o-ham cost me $30, when you break it down over so many meals, you will see what I mean.
Alright, back to the beans.  I found THIS recipe and then I accidentally bought only half the amount of beans I needed.  I wasn't too terribly worried about this, since the recipe would supposedly feed 16 (!!!), but I did have to do some modification (both out of necessity and by choice as you will see) and in the end it was probably far more meaty than it would have been with twice the beans.  I mention this so that if you aren't going to use this as a main dish like we did, you might want to up the ratio of bean to bone.  Also note that we ate this with giant sides of steamed cauliflower as an attempt to offset such a rich dish.  Have I mentioned these beans were SO good?  So good.  Baking the beans instead of crock-potting the beans makes a big difference.  The ham bone ends up roasted instead of being boiled giving it a much more full, rich flavor.

Baked Beans with a Bone (as modified by me, Danielle)
16 oz. dried navy beans
3 cups water
2-14 oz. cans of diced tomatoes with juice
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup molasses
1/3 cup brown sugar packed
1 tsp dried ground mustard
a few grinds of black pepper
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 large red onion left unchopped
1 ham bone with some meat left on it

Before we begin, let's again understand this whole process will take you 9 hours, not the 7 hours the original recipe claims.  Don't say I didn't warn you.
1. Quick soak beans.  Do this by bringing the water and the tomatoes to a boil in a dutch oven.  Add the beans and boil for about three minutes.  Take off burner and let them sit for about an hour.
2. After the hour, bring the mixture back to a boil, add salt and then reduce to simmer covered for another hour.
3. Heat oven to 250 degrees. 
4. Add molasses, sugar, mustard, pepper and cloves, stir.  Toss in the onion and the ham bone.  Cover and place in oven for about 7 hours.
5. Check on the beans and give them a stir about once an hour.  Around hour 5, add another 1/4 to 1/2 cup of water.  The ham bone should be getting nice and soft.  Use the stirring spoon to break it off the bone if it wants to come off.  Around hour 6, take the lid off so that the liquid can thicken and evaporate a bit.
6. When the beans are finished (as in, soft enough that they taste good), remove dutch oven from oven.  Remove bones (which should be clean at this point) and discard (unless you like to bone-pick, which I do not).  Also if there are any large chunks of skin, I'd remove those too.  Take out onion and large ham chunks and cut them into bite-sized pieces, add back to pot.
I added the tomatoes instead of straight water because I like baked beans with a bit of a tomato base.  It works fine and adds nutrients that water by itself would not.  I cut the salt in half since ham by itself is pretty salty, the amount of salt the original recipe requires is not needed (we learned this the hard way: ours was a bit salty).  This actually makes a great meal.  Think of it as ham chili...mmm...ham.  It makes about 6 adult servings if you eat it as a main course, probably 10-12 side-sized servings.

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