As my son’s football team season is in full swing now, the best time of the year in my opinion (IMO), my culinary thoughts often turn to slow cooked meals easy for communal feeding. This drives me to the tailgating nirvana AKA- barbeque. As the title eludes though, we are here to share my recipe for beans and not smoked meat (perhaps another time). However, these are not your average beans; a southern version of smoked baked beans is the call to action for football.
Beans are near and dear to my heart as they provide many health benefits for the consumer; protein, fiber, vitamin B, iron, potassium and they are low in fat. I love them in salads, burritos, soups, etc. Agreeably, this particular incarnation gets balanced out with some barbeque themed sauce, but it is for football season after all, we can all stand to live a little.
I prefer the process of soaking my beans overnight in a brined solution (3 Tbsp. table salt to 4 quarts water) and then cooking over heat on the stovetop. This prevents more splitting of your beans. However, I understand the desire at the firehouse (and the busy home) to bring something together without as much forethought, so the canned variety will serve you well. Navy beans are the norm but feel free to use whatever beans you have on hand.
A few after the fire critiques: I added the meat and bone from a smoked pork rib I recently cooked to enrich the meatiness so add it if you have it. I call for blackstrap molasses (a more condescended punch), muscovado sugar (an unprocessed sugar with strong molasses flavor) and liquid smoke (smoky in water form) and all are readily available in farmers’ markets and select grocery stores so get hunting.
Navy Beans (2 Cups, rinsed)
Bacon (½ lb. ¼“ dice)
Onion (medium, diced)
Ketchup (½ Cup)
Molasses (2 Tbsp., Blackstrap preferred)
Muscovado or Brown Sugar (2 Tbsp., light)
Mustard (1 Tbsp. Yellow Mustard)
Worcestershire Sauce (1 Tbsp.)
Liquid Smoke (1 tsp.)
Salt (1 tsp.)
Pepper (¼ tsp.)
Medium Saucepan (AKA- medium pot)
Medium Sauté Pan
Place slow cooker to LOW and add beans. Add bacon in a cold sauté pan and then slowly sauté over medium heat until rendered, 10-15 minutes. Toss bacon with beans in the slow cooker ensuring to reserve about 1 Tbsp. of bacon grease. Add onions to the sauté pan, salt and cook until translucent, 5-8 minutes ensuring to add 1-2 Tbsp. water to release the fond on the bottom of the sauté pan halfway through. A wooden spoon scrapping the pan here is good for that. Toss onions with bacon and beans in the slow cooker.
Meanwhile, place the remaining ingredients in the saucepan and bring to a boil, 4-5 minutes over medium-high heat. Remove from heat and add to beans. Add enough water to just cover beans, stir everything and cook for 2-3 hours covered or until beans are slightly al dente but breaks easy under pressure. Add water should it appear that it needs some. Remove the lid for the last 30 minutes to allow the sauce to thicken. Let cool for a few minutes and serve warm. Indulge!